Getting to space is no easy feat, especially when you’re the first woman to attempt to do so. Born on May 26, 1951, Sally Ride was a brilliant Stanford University Physics major who managed to beat out thousands of other applicants to become NASA’s first female astronaut to fly in space on the STS-7 space shuttle mission. After a second mission to space, Sally left NASA but continued to study the universe and used her experiences to educate others in a number of ways until her death in 2012. She wrote books about exploring space and came up with the idea for NASA’s EarthKAM project, which enables middle school students to use a camera on the International Space Station to take pictures of Earth.
While Sally loved to educate, she was particularly passionate about helping young women pursue subjects like science and math, areas that weren’t traditionally thought of as female topics. To support this, in 2001 she proposed and helped create Sally Ride Science, “…a nonprofit organization run by the University of California, San Diego,” that aims “…to inspire young people in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and to promote STEM literacy.” In recognition of her achievements both at NASA and after her time at NASA, Sally was added to the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2003, and her birthday, May 26, has been dedicated as Sally Ride Day. Why do we celebrate her legacy? Gloria Steinem said it best as she watched Sally first launch into space: “Millions of little girls are going to sit by their television sets and see they can be astronauts, heroes, explorers, and scientists.”