Sally Ride, Pioneer

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Almost 30 years ago, Sally Ride broke the NASA gender barrier and became America's first female astronaut. While aboard the Challenger shuttle Ride used a robotic arm she helped design, to deploy and receive a satellite. She died Monday of pancreatic cancer, at age 61.

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: Sally Ride was nearing the end of her Ph.D. program in physics when she saw an ad in the Stanford student newspaper looking for new astronauts. That ad led to her career at NASA and her page in the history books. She was an educator, physicist and nationally ranked tennis player, but was chosen to be an astronaut for her technical expertise and cool head. Dr. Ride was a pioneer as both America's first female astronaut and its youngest to fly into space. She died Monday after a 17-month struggle with pancreatic cancer. In 2003, Dr. Ride appeared on SCIENCE FRIDAY and with amazing foresight, she stressed the importance of looking outside NASA for spaceflight research and design.

DR. SALLY RIDE: It's essential to harness the imaginations of the people out there who've been thinking about this. You know, they're - NASA doesn't have, you know, the sole ownership of creative ideas for getting to space. And, you know, a lot of the thinking has been going on for years and years and years, and sometimes you get in a rut with your thinking and sometimes you don't - you lose your creativity, you lose your imagination. And it's essential to have, you know, smart, creative, imaginative people from whatever walk of life and whatever age be able to have some input into the process and be able to have their ideas heard.

LICHTMAN: Sally Ride also spoke to why we must continue to explore space.

RIDE: It is innate in who we are to push back frontiers, to explore, to have a real desire to understand, to try to learn more about ourselves and our environment, in this case, our solar system, our universe. People have been exploring for centuries and centuries and centuries, and they'll still be exploring centuries from now. You know, this is what we do.

LICHTMAN: Sally Ride, dead at the age of 61.


Thank you, Flora.

LICHTMAN: Thank you.

FLATOW: Thanks for joining us today. That's about all the time we have for today.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Related NPR Stories



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from