Keeping her cool under stress wasn’t a requirement for NASA, but it was a positive attribute that made her stand out amongst many of her peers. She had the specialized knowledge they needed to help push them to the next level and her confidence shown through every interaction she had. Though not unafraid, she faced fear in the face and embraced each new challenge to show the team that anything was possible. However, the challenge of stepping foot into NASA as a woman was one she had never experienced before.
Two Soviet women preceded her in space, but she was the first American woman. Sally Ride had completed her studies in physics, astrophysics and English as she came across an advertised job posting from NASA. Though most would say it took courage to apply for that role, she shrugged and said “that sounds like me” and applied. When asked about taking the leap to apply at NASA, she attributed her courage to the women’s movement that had ‘already paved the way’ for her.
As she climbed on the shuttle on the historic mission to become the 3rd female in space, she was greeted with a condescending joke that the kitchen and her apron were waiting for her. Though it wasn’t the first time she had been taunted for being a female in a male-heavy industry, it was quite different experiencing it on a shuttle that required her to be elbow to elbow with them. Not letting it affect her, she shrugged it off and not only successfully completed the mission but also controlled a robotic arm (which she’d helped develop) that deployed and retrieved a satellite.
Her courage was inspiring for young women everywhere and she wanted to encourage them in the fields of science, math, and technology. Thus, in 2001 she started Sally Ride Science where she provided education surrounding those subjects. Separately, she also wrote 6 children’s science books to further encourage young students to embrace the subjects she cared so deeply about. Advocating for science and math in schools was of the utmost importance to her and she was determined to do everything she could to use her influence.
Sally was very reluctant to share much about her private life or even have her name tied to things, but when it came to advocating for young women in the fields of science, math and technology, that was another story. She believed there was more progress to be made for women, especially in those fields, and she wanted to be part of that change. Her courage paved the way for generations of young women who had always dreamed of a career in the STEM fields.