The world lost one of its most famous space pioneers with Sally Ride’s passing on July 23, 2012. She suffered from pancreatic cancer. Ride was the first woman NASA astronaut to be sent into space. The first woman to actually enter space was Valentina Tereshkova who was sent up by Russia in 1963. Twenty years later, Ride made her first launch twenty years later on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Ride entered the space program in 1978 after receiving her doctorate in physics from Stanford University.
After two space trips as part of the Space Shuttle crew, her future missions were scrapped after the explosion of the Challenger shortly after take off in 1986. Her experience with space flight and with the behind the scenes operations at NASA, she was asked to be part of the investigation teams for both of the Challenger and Columbia disasters. During her years with NASA, Ride wore many hats including that of special assistant to the administrator and the Director for the Office of Exploration.
Ride created the website Sally Ride Science as a forum for teachers and students to learn about space exploration. She used her physics degree to her advantage after leaving NASA. She was hired by the University of California, San Diego as a physics professor. She also took on the role of director for the California Space Institute. Ride’s knowledge and expertise made her a popular as an educator. She was respected for her many achievements as an astronaut and for her willingness to share her experiences with others. Many who worked with her during her years at NASA say that her ability to work under pressure and the way she handled herself in difficult situations was a testament to her bravery and courage when facing new challenges. She was admired by all who met her and those who knew her truly believe the universe has lost one of its most fervent advocates.