Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, will become a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor for those who have made meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of theUnited States.
President Obama made the announcement Aug. 8.
Ride and 15 others will be honored for their contributions toAmerica’s well being in White House ceremonies later this year. A physicist and Stanford University graduate, she was among 35 selected by NASA to join the nation’s astronaut corps in 1978. The selection was the first to include women and part of an initiative to make the nation’s space explorers reflective of the U. S.as a whole.
On June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman to fly in space, as the shuttle Challenger climbed to orbit from NASA’sKennedySpaceCenter.
She died of pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012. Ride was 61.
The Los Angelesnative flew in space for a second time on a 1984 shuttle flight and led an in house NASA effort to establish a future national exploration strategy.
She served on the presidential commission that investigated the 1986 shuttle Challenger tragedy, an investigative role she would fill once again following the fatal breakup of the shuttleColumbiain 2003.
However, Ride was perhaps best known for her passion for science education and its importance to America’s youth, especially young women. She established Sally Ride EarthKAM in 1994, while a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. EarthKAM remains an important part of the International Space Station, where it allows middle and high school students to improve their understanding of the Earth and its environment by selecting sites to be photographed from orbit.
In 2001, the former astronaut started Sally Ride Science to raise awareness of the sciences among elementary and middle school students. Two years later, she was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Ride and her work will be honored at the White House later this year along with baseball great Ernie Banks; country singer Loretta Lynn; women’s activist Gloria Steinem; the late Daniel Inouye, the first Japanese/American to serve in the U.S. Congress and a Medial of Honor winner; and newspaper executive Ben Bradlee.