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On this day in history, June 18, 1983, astronaut Sally Ride becomes first American woman in space

Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on this day in history, June 18, 1983. 

Born on May 26, 1951, in Los Angeles, Ride earned bachelor’s degrees in English and physics from Stanford University in California before staying at Stanford and earning a PhD in physics in 1978. 

Shortly before earning her doctorate, Ride saw an ad for a newspaper that piqued her interest.


Along with three of her astronaut classmates, Ride was eventually assigned to STS-7, said NASA’s website. 

STS-7, which took off on June 18, 1983, from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, lasted six days on the Space Shuttle Challenger. 

The mission involved deploying communications satellites, said NASA. 

The first woman in space, Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, flew into space on June 16, 1963, spending two days in orbit on Vostok 6. 

While Ride was the first American woman in space, she was actually the third overall woman to embark on a spaceflight. 

Sally Ride in space

Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, on board Space Shuttle Challenger during STS-7 in 1983. (Getty Images)

Ride would return to space for her second and final spaceflight on STS-41-G in 1984. 

On that mission, again on the Space Shuttle Challenger, Ride spent eight days in space. 

She was assigned to a third spaceflight.

“It looked like someone had taken a blue pencil and outlined the Earth.”

“It looked like someone had taken a blue pencil and outlined the Earth. Then I realized that the blue line was Earth’s atmosphere,” she said, according to comments by her that are included on NASA’s website. 

“It was memorable because it was obvious then how fragile and delicate our atmosphere is — there just isn’t very much of it — but it sure is important!”

Sally Ride floating in space

Astronaut Sally Ride said that her favorite part of being in space was the feeling of weightlessness. (Getty Images)

Ride said that her favorite thing about spaceflight was the feeling of weightlessness. 

“When we first reached orbit, I did what lots of astronauts do: While I was still strapped in my seat, I held my pencil in front of my face and let go of it. It floated,” said Ride. 

“Once I got used to weightlessness, I could do 30 somersaults in a row and slither like a seal from one side of the cabin to the other with just a gentle push.”

Sally Ride speaking

After her retirement from NASA, Ride became a college professor and advocate for women in science. (Getty Images)

Ride retired from NASA in 1987, and took a teaching position at the University of California, San Diego. 

Two years later, in 2003, Ride was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. 

“Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism – and literally changed the face of America’s space program,” said former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, in comments posted on NASA’s website. 


Ride logged a total of 343 hours in space during her two space flights. 

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