Here are 20 Female Astronauts You Should Definitely Know

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2. Sally Ride

Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983 (she was the third woman in space overall, after Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya). She is still currently the youngest astronaut to have gone to space, at age 32.

Ride entered Stanford University as a junior, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in both physics and English. Ride stayed on at Stanford to study physics, where she earned he PhD in 1978.

Earlier, Ride was one of thousands of people who applied to join NASA, thanks to an ad run by the space agency in the Stanford student newspaper. She was selected to join the program in 1978, the same year she earned her PhD. She was one of six women selected for the astronaut program.

At NASA, Ride served as a ground-based communicator. She also helped to develop the “Canadarm”, a robotic arm used to maneuver payloads on the Space Shuttle. Her first spaceflight took place in 1983, when she flew on Challenger for STS-7 (the seventh shuttle mission). After her second and final spaceflight in 1984, Ride had accumulated more than 343 hours in space.

She was due to undertake a third flight, but was grounded along will all other astronauts when the space shuttle Challenger disaster took place in 1986. After her death in 2012, General Donald Kutyna revealed that Ride had given him information about the shuttle’s O-rings, a type of gasket that was ultimately to blame for the disaster. Ride also served on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, which determined the cause of the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster.

Ride left NASA in 1987 to pursue an academic and public service career. She initially started work at her alma mater, Stanford, but soon moved to the University of California, San Diego, to teach physics.

When Ride died in 2012, her obituary mentioned her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy. Ride was exceedingly close-lipped when it came to her personal life (including cancer treatments). Though it’s unknown how Ride chose to identify, this reveal makes her the first known LGBTQ astronaut.