Dr Sally Kristen Ride was the third woman in space, the first being Valentina Tereshkova (3 days from 16th June 1963 on Vostok 6) and the second being Svetlana Savitskaya (8 days from 19th August 1982 on Soyuz T6). Dr Ride was one of the five-person crew on the seventh Space Shuttle mission from 18th June 1983, and was also a member of the thirteenth Shuttle crew, for 8 days from 5th October 1984.
Born in Encino, CA on 26th May 1951, at an early age she showed prowess in tennis, and became a national champion. With reluctance she had to choose between tennis and science, and although she first dropped out of Swarthmore College to pursue a career in professional tennis, she eventually decided she could not be good enough, and enrolled at Stanford University. By 1977 she had a doctoral degree in astrophysics, and was looking for something to do: in the absence of tall, dark, two-headed three-armed strangers at parties, she answered a NASA advertisement for astronauts, and made it all the way through.
In early shuttle flights she was ground communications officer ("capsule communicator"), and helped design the robotic arm. Her flight in 1983 made her the first American woman in space (20 years after the Soviet Union). She was training for a third mission when the Challenger disaster occurred: she served on the investigatory commission. She resigned from NASA in 1987, and has held academic and commercial positions in space science since then, and has championed the education of girls in mathematics and science. She has written several books for children introducing them to the joys of science.
Dr Ride died at 61 of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012.