Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)
In 1983, Los Angeles-born physicist Dr. Sally Ride (1951–2012) became the first American woman and youngest person in space at the age of thirty-two. While at Stanford, Ride was ranked number one as a women’s singles tennis player and even considered a professional sports career—she joked that “a bad forehand” was behind her decision to pursue physics. She was one of the first six women admitted into NASA’s space program, and the first to go into space—facing a media circus of sexist questions: Would she wear a bra or makeup in space? Did she cry on the job? How would she deal with menstruation in space?
After the Challenger explosion in 1986, Ride was the only representative from NASA appointed by President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident. She was fearless in her pursuit of holding her employer accountable and became known for asking the tough questions. After the explosion, NASA had to reexamine their mission goals, and Ride was appointed to lead that effort. She worked with the new recruits and came up with four recommendations: a mission to Mars, exploring the solar system, creating a space station on the moon, and organizing a mission to focus more on Planet Earth. Though NASA favored the flashy, exploratory missions, her strongest passion was using their advanced space technology to further understand our own planet—one that she felt was the most in need of studying and saving. After retiring from NASA, she became a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and started her own foundation, Sally Ride Science, to bring science festivals and programs to young girls. Ride was an intensely private person; only after her passing in 2012 was it revealed publicly that she was also the first known LGBT astronaut.