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Sally into space

June 18, 2013

 sallyride

When the first spacegirl returned to the Earth, Life magazine announced: “She orbits over the sex barrier” subtitling that “a blue-eyed blonde with a new hairdo stars in a Russian space spectacular”. It was about Valentina. The Americans took exactly 20 years and 2 days more to send the first American woman, Sally Ride to follow her steps.

It is less known however, that even before the first man went into space, 13 American women pilots were selected for the space race. The project was based on the idea that women, being smaller and lighter might do better – meaning consume less oxygen – in the confined space capsule. But just before the training would start, the project was cancelled, since women could not qualify as the astronaut candidates. Only military jet test-pilots with engineering degrees were admitted to the training, something women at that time were banned from.

An athletic youngster with a brief foray into professional tennis, Sally Ride was destined for the stars. After receiving a degree in physics and English and holding a doctorate from Stanford, she was selected as one of NASA’s first six female astronauts for spaceflight training. After five years of careful preparations, on this day in 1983, Sally finally boarded on Challenger and took off. “The fact that I was going to be the first American woman to go into space carried huge expectations along with it” she recalled in an interview. After finishing her astronaut career Sally fulfilled her dream and opened a company to motivate girls and young women for a career in science and technology. Sally Ride died last year.

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