On June 18, 1983, Dr. Sally Ride entered the history books when she became the first American woman in space. She got her break six years earlier when she came across a help-wanted ad in the newspaper announcing that NASA was interested in sending scientists to its astronaut program. (She flew on the space shuttle again in 1984.)
Ride died today after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, according to her organization, Sally Ride Science. She was 61.
Pictured here, from left to right are Shannon W. Lucid, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, and Ride.
Ride graduated from Stanford University with a degree in physics. Here she is pictured in a 1978 break with other NASA female astronaut candidates. From left: Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Anna Fisher, Kathryn Sullivan, Rhea Seddon .
Ride and her team launch into space aboard Challenger at 7:33 a.m. ET on June 18, 1983. Her first space mission lasted 147 hours. Here's what she had to say about it later:
"On launch day, there was so much excitement and so much happening around us. In the crew quarters. Even on the way to the launch pad. Going up the launch pad, looking up and seeing this huge, you know, rocket that kind of sounds like an animal. You can kind of hear the gurgling, and the hissing. It sounds like it's alive.
"I spent an enormous amount of effort just trying to stay focused. I tried to block out pretty much everything that was going on around me and just put one foot in front of the other. Because it would have been way too easy to just be lost in the moment. I didn't really think about it that much at the time. Because i just wanted to get the opportunity to do that. But, I've -- I came to appreciate what an honor it was to be selected to be the first woman to get a chance to go into space."
Ride later described the launch as "exhilarating, terrifying and overwhelming all at the same time." According to her NASA bio, Ride was tasked with calling out "Roll program" seven seconds after launch. "I'll guarantee that those were the hardest words I ever had to get out of my mouth," she said later.