Sally Ride seized the chance to go to space because she wanted to find out what it would feel like. Sally loved testing the limits of her brain and body — solving the puzzles in Scientific American as a teenager, running five miles a day while doing research in physicsat Stanford University, winning tournament tennis matches, learning to fly a NASA T-38 jet.
After she blasted off to become America’s first woman in space, the support crew at Mission Control asked Sally how she’d enjoyed being launched on a rocket. She gave it Disneyland’s top rating: “Definitely an E ticket.” Looking back at her first spaceflight years later, she called it “the most fun I’ll ever have in my life.”
When we were best friends and high school classmates in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, Sally told me that she wanted to be famous, but she wanted to achieve that goal by winning a Nobel Prize. A ninth-grade science teacher had introduced her to physics and astronomy, and she intended to study the stars. After her retirement from NASA and academia, Sally, who died this past week at 61, turned her focus back to teachers — like the one she always credited with planting the seed that eventually got her to space. She hoped to motivate a new generation of teachers who might impart a love of science to their students.