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Sally K. Ride
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When Sally Ride became the first American woman to soar into space, she captured the nation's imagination as a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers. But Ride's historic flight represented just one aspect of a remarkable and multifaceted life. She was also a physicist, a science writer, and an inspirational advocate for science literacy. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately: motivating young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science and to consider pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. As a young girl, Sally was fascinated by science. She credited her parents with encouraging her interests. Sally grew up playing with a chemistry set and a telescope. She also grew up playing sports. She competed in national junior tennis tournaments and was good enough to win a tennis scholarship to Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles. In 1977, Sally already had degrees in physics and English from Stanford University and was finishing her Ph.D. in physics when she saw an ad in the Stanford student newspaper saying that NASA was looking for astronauts. Up until then, most astronauts had been military pilots, and they all had been male. But now NASA was looking for scientists and engineers, and was allowing women to apply. Sally immediately sent in her application, along with 8,000 other people. From that group, 35 new astronauts, including six women, were chosen. NASA selected Sally as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. Sally's astronaut training included parachute jumping, water survival, weightlessness, and mastering all of the space shuttle's systems. During two shuttle missions, she worked on the ground as a communications officer, relaying messages from mission control to the shuttle crews. She was part of the team that developed the robot arm used by shuttle crews to deploy and retrieve satellites.