White House, NASA Honor Sally Ride

White House, NASA Honor Sally Ride

NASA announced today that President Obama will posthumously award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sally Ride, the first American woman to make a spaceflight.  Ride died on July 23, 2012 at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer.

Ride is being honored tonight at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for serving as a role model for woman and girls and her service to the nation.   She devoted much of her post-NASA career to Sally Ride Science, a company dedicated “to educate, engage and inspire all students,” but especially girls.  NASA also is creating a new internship program in her name to help students from underserved backgrounds and renaming the EarthKam camera aboard the International Space Station after her.  Middle school students can obtain images of the Earth from EarthKam to support their studies.  Ride was involved in a similar effort using a camera aboard the GRAIL spacecraft called MoonKam.

Ride became the first American woman to make a spaceflight, aboard STS-7 in 1983 (the first woman in space was the Soviet Union’s Valentina Tereshkova in 1963).  Ride made a second flight in 1984, STS-41G.   In 1986, she served on the Rogers Commission that investigated the space shuttle Challenger (STS 51-L) tragedy and also served on the 2003 Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) that determined the cause of the space shuttle Columbia (STS-107) accident. 

After leading a study on the future of NASA in 1987, Ride left the agency to become a physics professor at UC-San Diego and soon founded Sally Ride Science with her life partner Tam O’Shaughnessy, who remains as chair of the company’s board.  Ride was married to fellow astronaut Steven Hawley from 1982-1987.

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