In 1977, a 26-year-old woman named Sally Ride read an announcement that NASA sought young scientists to work on the space shuttle. Ride had graduated from Stanford University in 1972 with a degree in physics and English and was working toward her Ph.D.
Until then, NASA relied on military pilots to staff their space program, but now they needed specialists to work on board the new space shuttle. More than 8,000 people applied to the program, about 1,000 of them women.
Ride was selected to be part of a group of 35 new astronauts and soon underwent training to receive her pilot’s license. On June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space.
As a mission specialist aboard the Challenger, Ride tested a mechanical arm in space that was designed to release and retrieve satellites. She also was flight engineer, assisting the pilot during takeoff and reentry.
“The thing that I’ll remember most about the flight is that it was fun,” she said. “In fact, I’m sure it was the most fun I’ll ever have in my life.”