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Sally Ride paved way for women, made 'important difference'

July 24, 2012 |  9:21 am


Sally Ride, the famed astronaut and first U.S. woman in space, had deep ties to Southern California, and she was remembered here  and around the world as a groundbreaker.

"She was the first," said Joy A. Crisp, a deputy project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "And after her came many other women. She made an important difference."

Ride was born May 26, 1951, in Encino. A straight-A student, she was bored in school until her interest in science was stirred by a high school physiology teacher, Elizabeth Mommaerts.

Obituary: Sally Ride dead 61

Ride was also especially adept in tennis. She took lessons and was ranked 18th nationally on the junior circuit, receiving a partial scholarship to Westlake School for Girls, now Harvard-Westlake School.

Tennis pro Billie Jean King saw her play and told her that she could become a professional, and Ride enrolled at Swarthmore College to play tennis. But she decided that she didn't have sufficient dedication to the game and switched her interest to physics and transferred to Stanford.

Ride went on to great fame as the first American woman sent into space, the youngest American sent into space and the first woman to make two trips. She also was the sole astronaut appointed to the Rogers Commission to investigate the 1986 explosion of the shuttle Challenger.

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In 1989, she became director of the California Space Institute at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a professor of physics at UC San Diego. In 2001, she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, to encourage women and especially young girls to become interested in science. She also wrote five children's books encouraging an interest in science.

She received a number of honors, including twice being awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal. She has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger inducted Ride into the California Hall of Fame in 2006, and incoming President Clinton named her to his transition team.

Ride is survived by Tam O'Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years; her mother, Joyce; her sister, Karen, known as "Bear"; and a niece and nephew.


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