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First American Woman Astronaut Dies

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first-american-woman-astronaut-diesThe First Woman to Fly in Space, Sally Ride, Succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer at the Age of 61.

And this was a woman who not only set the pace for other woman to enter space, but a trailblazer in other ways as well. The physicist, Dr. Sally Ride, was accepted into the space program during 1978 after applying for the opportunity through an advertisement for astronauts. Consequently, Sally Ride made the space program and flew on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. At age 32, Sally Ride was the youngest American astronaut to go to space. The first woman in space completed an additional mission in 1984, as well. The woman was busy and ambitious, having degrees in physics, astrophysics and English.

Sally Ride's History with the Space Program

Sally Ride credited the woman's movement for helping her get into a traditional male department, physics and for landing as the first female astronaut (NASA had decided to include women). It is noted that Sally Ride was chosen for the space program for her reputation of being cool-headed under stress.

But although Sally Ride reached a significant accomplishment making the NASA space program, she was still treated as less than competent. At an interview before Sally Ride's first shuttle flight, she was asked many questions referring to her sex, such as, "Would the space flight affect her reproductive organs? Would she wear makeup and a bra in space? Was she planning to have children?" and "How would she handle menstruation in space?" Johnny Carson joked that she would be late for the flight in order to find shoes that match her purse.

Sally Ride's Early Days with NASA

During her early days with NASA, Dr. Sally Ridelearned to jump from a parachute and was trained in weightlessness, water survival and G-forces that would occur with the rocket launch. She also became well versed in flying a jet. If that wasn't enough, Sally Ride assisted in the development of the famous robotic arm to be used in the space shuttle. Sally was selected for the 1983 mission largely because she was an expert on the robotic arm.

Sally Ride was on the roster to take another flight before the catastrophic Challenger explosion, and ended up being on the investigative panel, upset that NASA had not listened to experts' warnings about the rocket's boosters called O-rings.

Sally Ride Inspires Girls

Ride retired after the Challenger explosion and her passion turned toward inspiring girls to go into math, science and technology. Dr. Sally Ride completed six books for children, the most notable one being "How to Make a Sandwich in Space." Sally Ride then started a company named Sally Ride Science, geared toward making engineering and science "cool" again and put together science programs and materials for schools; even teacher training.

The world has lost a multi-talented innovator and a woman we can be proud of. Here's hoping other girls can follow in Sally Ride's footsteps!

Our hearts go out to her family.

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