Thirty-five years ago Monday, NASA astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, soaring aboard space shuttle Challenger in a history-making launch.
Born in Encino, California, on May 26, 1951, Ride was one of six women selected in NASA's 1978 astronaut class. The Stanford University graduate noticed a NASA newspaper ad for astronauts and turned in an application with 8,000 others. She was one of 35 candidates selected to join the astronaut corps.
Ride's 1978 class also included the first three African-Americans and the first Asian-American in the astronaut corps.
"We're all people who are dedicated to the space program and who really want to fly in the space shuttle," Ride said of her astronaut class. "That's a common characteristic that we all have that transcends the different backgrounds."
Ride served two space shuttle missions in ground-based roles before she was choosen for the crew of STS-7. She boarded the space shuttle Challenger June 18, 1983 for the historic flight from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the mission, Ride helped deploy communications satellites and conduct experiments.
Ride was part of a second space shuttle mission in October 1984 and went on the be part of the presidential commission that investigated the tragic Challenger disaster in January 1986. She retired from NASA a year later, but continued pursue her passion for discovery and science. She was a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University, a professor of physics at the University of California-San Diego and director of the California Science Institute.
She founded Sally Ride Science in 2001 to motivate children in the study of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM fields). Ride also wrote several science books for young readers, including "The Third Planet," which won the American Institute of Physics Children's Science Writing Award in 1995.
Ride died July 23, 2012 due to pancreatic cancer. There is a memorial with a tree planted in honor of her life and legacy at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Texas.