How many children around the globe have dreamt of becoming astronauts when they grow up? The lure of outer space certainly is a powerful one, enough for two of the biggest nations in the world to compete just to be seen as the first to have “conquered” it. No matter how you look at it, whether you see space exploration as a necessity or just another manifestation of mankind’s insatiable greed, we have to give it credit for helping expand our knowledge greatly.

Among those who contributed to this is NASA astronaut Sally K. Ride. Shall we get to know her better?

NASA Astronaut Group 8

She became the first woman to reach space on June 18, 1983 aboard the Challenger. Ride and five other women were among the first to be included in NASA astronaut Group 8. This crew was the first to include females, making history in the process. Thanks to the creation of the space shuttle, NASA was able to expand its selections from only pilots to finally including other experts such as engineers and scientists.

They underwent the same degree of training as the men and had to be eligible for both ground and flight missions. Given her skill, Ride was able to serve as Capsule Communicator for STS-2 and STS-3 between 1981 and 1982. She was also adept at using the shuttle’s robotic arm. All her training and learning wasn’t for naught, however. In April of 1982, she was announced as Mission Specialist for STS-7, which was a satellite deployment and retrieval mission aboard the Challenger!

The Challenger’s Six-day Mission

Aside from Ride, the Challenger’s crew included a number of experts in varying fields. Among them were Commander Robert L. Croppen, Physician-Astronaut Norman E. Thagard, Pilot Frederick H. Hauck, and Mission Specialist John M. Fabian. As you might have guessed, Ride was the only woman onboard the space shuttle. Their team was also the largest crew ever flown in a single spacecraft, an investment that was unheard of during that time.

Their mission had also been one of the most complex to date. They were to launch two communication satellites; the Anik C3 and the Palapa B2. There were many firsts during this time, including Ride’s deployment and later retrieval of the Shuttle Pallet Satellite, which was the first time a space shuttle was used to this so! The Challenger and its crew, having completed their mission successfully, touched down on June 24.

Sally Ride is Not the First Woman in Space

While she made history as the first American woman in space, Ride is actually the second woman overall to have achieved this great feat. It was Soviet cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova who holds this honor, following investment planning by the Soviet Union to send a female cosmonaut into orbit. Tereshkova was not a military pilot, but she did have the skills required by Soviet Chief Designer Sergey Korolyov. In fact, she was selected out of 400 female candidates!

Tereshkova made her way into space aboard the Vostok-6 on June 16, 1963. The female cosmonaut was able to circle the Earth 48 times, over a span of three days before making her parachute landing on June 19. While Ride and Tereshkova never met, it’s safe to say that they were trailblazers for women around the world when it comes to the Space Race.

After all, we must consider the fact that prior to them, the flooring was not open for women even if they had the qualifications. They proved that not only were women capable, but that they can be held up to the same standards as their male counterparts and excel in the same field.

Photo Sources:
Cover – NASA,
Photo #1 – Twitter / Astro Info Service,
Photo #2 – NASA,
Photo #3 – NASA via Space