Ride, Sally Kristen 1951–2012, American astrophysicist and astronaut, b. Encino, Calif. With an M.A. in physics (1975) and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Stanford Univ., she joined NASA in 1978, where she was an astronaut (1979–87) and helped design the robot arm for the space shuttle. In 1983 she became the first American woman in space; she flew on a second mission the following year. She also served (1986, 2003) on the commissions that investigated the and Columbia disasters. In 1989 she became professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute at the Univ. of Calif., San Diego. Dedicated to arousing interest in the sciences in young people, she wrote six science books for children.