Sally Ride: Child in (not of) the ’60s


While many women were burning bras and taking mouths full of birth control pills to exercise their independence, Sally Ride empowered herself through education and career


Sally Ride, the first female astronaut to go into space, died yesterday. While she will be remembered by most for being the first female astronaut in space, her other accomplishments were far more significant.

Born in 1951 and thus coming of age during this country’s national nervous breakdown known as the 1960′s, she attended high school on a scholarship. In addition to being interested in science, she was a nationally ranked tennis player. She went on to attend Stanford University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English and physics along with a master’s degree and a Ph.D in physics, while doing research in astrophysics and free electron laser physics. In short, while many of her contemporaries were committing acts of “self-empowerment” like burning bras and practicing free-range sex, she truly empowered herself through education and self-improvement.

She joined NASA in 1978 and was on the crew of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, placing her in the history books.

Sally Ride’s most significant accomplishment was getting children interested in science

But her greatest and most long-lasting achievements, as she would likely agree, came after such flight. Specifically, she was named to the presidential commission investigating the Challenger accident and headed its subcommittee on operations. Following the investigation, Ride was assigned to NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, where she led NASA’s first strategic planning effort, authored a report entitled “Leadership and America’s Future in Space”, and founded NASA’s Office of Exploration.

After NASA, she worked at the Stanford University  Center for International Security and Arms Control. During the mid 1990s until her death, Ride led the various public outreach efforts in cooperation with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UCSD, which permitted middle school students to study imagery of the Earth and moon, thus likely getting countless young people interested in science. She was also the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she founded that creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. Ride wrote or co-wrote five books on space aimed at children, with the goal of encouraging children to study science.

While it is clichéd to state that a person could do worse than emulate Sally Ride’s commitment to science and inspiring future generations to such avocation, it is a truism that one could likely not do better than Ms. Ride when it comes to enriching society and its future.

-I.M. Windee

2 Comments to “Sally Ride: Child in (not of) the ’60s”

  1. Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write on my website something like that. Can I include a portion of your post to my blog?

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