Sally K. Ride
May 26 marks the birthday of Dr. Sally K. Ride, the first American woman to travel outside the Earth's atmosphere. Her outer space voyage on the Challenger from June 18-23, 1983, was the third in the history of space exploration by a female astronaut or cosmonaut. She was preceded by two women in the Soviet space program, Valentina Tereshkova (in 1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (in 1982).
In addition to her accomplishments in space, Ride has had her share of success on the ground. She helped to design the robot arm for the space shuttle. In 1986, she was appointed to the presidential commission that investigated the tragic explosion of the Challenger on its 10th launch. Three years later, she became the director of the Space Science Institute at the University of California at San Diego.
Ride is admired not only for being an outstanding astronaut and physicist, but also for making strides for American women in a field traditionally dominated by men. Her accomplishments were recognized by the National Women's Hall of Fame, which selected her as an honoree in 1988.