Ticket to Ride: Astronaut Sally Ride


By: Nathan Chandler

5 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

In the 1960s and '70s, NASA was dominated by white males. In the '80s, the organization knew it needed to diversify to survive. Along came Sally Ride, a smart, driven intellectual who also had superior athletic abilities. How much do you know about this amazing woman of the stars?

Sally Ride was the first American woman to do what?

Ride was the very first female NASA astronaut to travel into space. She was also the youngest astronaut ever in space.


How many females had already been into space by the time Ride achieved this feat?

Two Russian women had previously been in space. But Ride was the first American, and she was (and still is the youngest) ever -- she was just 32 years old during her historic spaceflight.


Ride excelled at which sport?

Sally was an intense competitor, especially on the tennis court. She eventually achieved a national ranking thanks to her racket skills.


At one point, Ride was ranked as the 18th best tennis player in the entire country. What did she do next?

Ride loved tennis and played in college for a while but eventually gave it up. She went to Swarthmore College for a few semesters before transferring to Cal and then Stanford.


She earned a doctorate degree in which subject?

In 1978, Ride earned a doctorate in physics from Stanford University. Like most astronauts, she was an excellent and driven student.


How did Ride first find out about an opening at NASA?

Ride saw an ad in the newspaper. She jumped at the opportunity to apply for a job at NASA ... along with a whole lot of other potential candidates.


In 1978, Ride applied for a position at NASA. How many other people applied for just a few spots?

Ride was chosen from about 1,000 applicants. Her excellent accomplishments in education and athletic ability helped her stand out from the pack.


Ride was the only woman selected from that initial round of applicants.

NASA actually selected five other women in addition to Ride. But Ride became by far the most successful of the bunch.


How did Ride first learn about the space program?

NASA recruited Nichelle Nichols (who played Lt. Uhura on "Star Trek") to travel the country, encouraging women and minorities to look into space-related careers. Ride was inspired by Nichols' speeches.


Ride had a doctorate in physics. She had a bachelor's degree in which subject?

Ride was a voracious reader for much of her life. She earned an English degree at Stanford.


Ride participated in a panel that investigated the Columbia accident. The panel was formed to find out why the space shuttle Columbia broke apart during a mission. What did they determine was the cause of the accident?

During takeoff, a piece of foam insulation fell off of the shuttle and smacked into the shuttle's wing. During re-entry, the damaged heat shields couldn't ward off immense heat, which caused the craft to break into pieces.


What was Ride's title on her first space mission?

Ride was one of five crew members on the shuttle during her very first space mission. She was Mission Specialist 2.


What was the Ride Report?

The Ride Report was a popular name for 1987's "NASA Leadership and America's Future in Space." The report outlined a new -- and very ambitious -- vision for the space program.


What was NOT a component of Ride's bold report?

There was no proposed probe to Neptune. But the ambitious report did outline ideas for a base on the moon, as well as a manned mission to Mars.


The 1987 Ride Report outlined a plan that would have astronauts living on a moon base by which year?

Ride and her co-authors were sure that a determined NASA program could have astronauts living in a moon base by 2010. Sadly, the program lost much of its momentum and is nowhere such an accomplishment.


Before her first space flight in 1983, Ride became offended when a reporter asked her about what?

One reporter asked her if she tended to cry under stress. Ride was miffed about the absurd questions she fielded simply because she was a woman.


What feat did Ride perform during her first space mission?

Ride snagged a drifting satellite using the shuttle's robotic arm. It was the first time an astronaut had performed such a task using that type of equipment.


Both of Ride's trips to space were aboard the same shuttle. Which shuttle was it?

Ride rode Challenger to space for both of her missions. The Challenger, of course, exploded in 1986 as Ride and millions of others watched in horror.


What was NOT one of the purposes of Ride's first space mission?

There was no weapons testing, of course. The shuttle deployed two communications satellites and conducted scientific research, such as experiments regarding microgravity.


Ride was on the Rogers Commission. What was the purpose of the commission?

In 1986, the Challenger shuttle exploded high over the Earth. Ride was selected to be part of the Rogers Commission, which was tasked with determining the cause of the accident.


With both of her missions combined, how long was Ride in space?

Ride was luckier than most NASA astronauts, many of whom never even reached orbit. She spent a total of 14 days in space.


On Ride's second trip into space (in 1984), another woman joined her. Which country was that woman from?

Kathryn Sullivan, from Australia, was part of the seven-person crew that flew during the 13th space shuttle mission. It was the first crew to feature two women.


How did Ride play into the investigation regarding the Challenger shuttle explosion?

Ride was one of the few people who correctly suspected the reason for the shuttle's demise. She quietly passed along the information, which eventually led to the commission's ability to pinpoint the accident's cause.


What factor -- which Ride helped to pinpoint -- led to the Challenger disaster?

The Challenger launched in cold weather that prevented the fuel system's O-rings from properly sealing. Ultimately, the improper seal led to an explosion that killed everyone on the mission.


Ride suspected that the Challenger might experience problems BEFORE its fateful accident.

Before the disaster, an engineer from NASA blew the whistle on potential issues with the spacecraft. Ride was the only member of NASA who publicly supported his assertions … which turned out to be correct.


How long was Ride married?

Ride was married for five years to another astronaut -- Steve Hawley. The two divorced in 1987. Their marriage and eventual separation were clues to the intensely private astronaut's secret life.


Ride was a lesbian.

Ride started her first lesbian relationship as a college student but always kept her personal life very private. Following her short marriage, she had a decades-long relationship with another woman.


Why did Ride never get a chance to make a third trip into space?

NASA was in tremendous turmoil following the Challenger explosion, which directly impacted one of Ride's scheduled launches. She never again flew into space.


How did Ride spend her post-NASA career?

Ride did a lot of teaching and wrote books about space. She was a huge proponent of encouraging girls and young women to pursue space-related careers.


How did Ride die?

Ride developed pancreatic cancer and she couldn't beat it. She died at 61 in her California home. Her far-out space legacy, however, will likely stand the test of time.


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