Episode 29: Sally Ride Quarter American Women Series

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sally ride quarter american women series

U.S. Mint Photo

Sally Ride Quarter American Women Series

Sally Ride Quarter American Women Series is here!

She was the first American woman in space.
She was the first female CAPCOm – capsule communicator at NASA
She was the first astronaut to acknowledge that she was Gay

The excitement around her accomplishments and firsts as an American Woman Astronaut created a lively saying as she prepared for her first orbit in space –  all of America was saying “Ride, Sally, Ride…

Sally Ride’s life is an inspiration to not only young girls wanting to follow in her footsteps, but she is an American legend – who has made our country proud, and on this episode of Quarter Miles Travel,  I tell her story.  

America knows her as our beloved first female astronaut.  Her love of science was a life long. She was always interested in science, which was supported and encouraged by her parents. As a child she would ask for science-related gifts – telescopes, chemistry sets, and a subscription to the Scientific American magazine. It’s no wonder that she would grow up to make such significant achievements in science and stand out as an American icon.

On the second quarter of the American Women’s Series of the U.S. Mint Commemorative quarters Sally Ride

She is on the reverse side or tails side of the quarter.  Her bright smile and enthusiastic spirit shines through in the design. The reverse  or (tails side of the quarter) depicts Dr. Sally Ride next to a window on the space shuttle with a diagram of earth.  The design is an inspiration of a quote by her, “But when I wasn’t working, I was usually at a window looking down at Earth.”

How much do you know about the woman who looked out her window, dreaming of being in space and one day there she was walking to the shuttle, ready to board and ride, sally, ride.

Life & Hobbies:

  • Sally was born on May 26, 1951. She grew up in Encino, California with her parents (Dale & Joyce Ride) .  She had a younger sister, Karen  whose nicknamed was Bear. 
  • At the age of 9 she began collecting stamps and was particularly interested in stamps that featured astronauts. 
  • She would continue collecting them for the rest of her life. 
  • And, not so coincidentally – In  2018 USPS released a Forever Stamp that featured Sally Ride.
  • One could most likely guess that She would be a huge fan of the Star Trek TV series. Watching and first dreaming, but later, having her own real life experiences in space. 
  • She loved to run and also enjoyed playing tennis, volleyball, and softball. 

She even won the Eastern Collegiate Tennis Tournament during her first year of college. While attending Stanford, Sally taught tennis at a summer camp in Lake Tahoe. And, played an exhibition doubles game against tennis champion Billie Jean King when she visited the camp in 1972.  King told Sally that if she worked hard, she could become a pro player. Of course Sally had other things on her mind.  

She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Physics and English, her Master’s degree in Physics, and her Ph.D. in Physics – all from Stanford University.

When she was young, she was an avid fan of the LA Dodgers baseball team and dreamed of one day becoming their shortstop.

Love Life:

  • Sally was the first acknowledged gay astronaut, however, she didn’t come out until after her death in 2012. She wrote in her obituary that her business partner and friend, Tam O’Shaughnessy, was also her life partner. This was later confirmed by Tam and by Sally’s family.
  • Sally met Tam when they were preteens playing tennis together. They initially became friends and eventually life partners, spending 27 years together in total.
  • Prior to this, Sally had a short (approximately five year) marriage with fellow astronaut Steven Hawley. 

NASA Career:

  • Before flying in space, Sally became the first female CAPCOM (capsule communicator). In this role, she was responsible for talking to the astronauts who were on the space shuttle. She assisted with this for two missions – STS-2 (1981) and STS-3 (1982).
  • During her astronaut training, Sally was required to fly as a passenger in T-38 jets, which can travel at speeds of up to 500 mph and are known to fly upside down. She loved the thrill of this so much that she went on to obtain her private pilot’s license. Another way her tag line – Ride – Sally – ride is a perfect fit.

  • On June 18, 1983, Sally became the first American woman to fly into space. She traveled aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-7. During this trip, she served as a mission specialist and was responsible for deploying and retrieving a satellite with the shuttle’s robotic arm. The overall purpose of this mission was to deploy satellites into orbit.
  • She flew into space a second time on Oct. 5, 1984 aboard Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-41G. This time she was joined by another female astronaut, Kathryn Sullivan. This was the first time a mission to space included 2 female crew members. During this mission, Kathryn would go on to become the first American woman to walk in space. The overall purpose of this mission was to deploy the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite and conduct several experiments related to Space and Terrestrial Applications.
  • Sally was training for a third mission to space when the Challenger space shuttle exploded. Following this, flights were grounded and she was never again presented the opportunity to return to space.
  • She was, however, recruited to serve as a member of the presidential commission for NASA and was tasked with investigating the 1986 explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. She was called upon again in 2003 to help investigate the explosion of the Columbia space shuttle. She was the only person to serve on both investigative panels. 

After her career with NASA:

  • Sally served as a fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation for 2 years – she worked to verify the Soviet Union’s nuclear warhead arsenal.
  • In 1989, she became a Professor of Physics at UC San Diego and went on to serve as Director of the University of California’s California Space Institute. Her love for space never wained. 
  • She co-authored several award-winning children’s science books with her partner, ​​Tam O’Shaughnessy.
  • In 2001, Sally and Tam worked with 3 other colleagues to found an education company, Sally Ride Science, which focused on diversity and inclusion. The goal of the company was to narrow the gender gap in science and provide diverse role models for children of all backgrounds. 
    • The company developed several STEM programs, hosted science fairs, published science books, and provided training to educators
  • Sally ran two educational NASA outreach programs – Sally Ride EarthKAM which allowed students to request images of Earth from the International Space Station and GRAIL MoonKAM (allowed students to capture photos of the moon from satellites orbiting in space).

Sally was recognized for her accomplishments and service to youth, and the American community with many Awards: 

  • Sally was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom after her death in 2013. This award bestowed by President Obama and was presented to Sally’s partner, Tam.
  • Other awards received included: the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Lindbergh Eagle, the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award, the NASA Space Flight Medal which she received twice, the National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award, and the Space Foundation’s 2013 General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award.
  • She was also inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Aviation Hall of Fame, and Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame.
  • She was named a Stanford Engineering Hero.
  • The Navy commissioned a research vessel named after her – the R/V Sally Ride.
  • She is recoenignized on the U.S. Mint Quarters – the 2nd in this series  – American Women Quarters Program
  • She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 60, fought the disease for 17 months, before passing away on July 23, 2012

Sally gave so much to the field of science and left a legacy of reaching for the moon for little girls for years to come.  And, not just little girls, and not just space. Her story inspires us all to set our goals above the clouds and set out to reach them, one star at a time.

Visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to learn more about her.

Check out the website – airandspace.si.edu

To learn more about the U.S. Mint American Women’s quarter Series and their Commemorative quarters, visit the website – USMint.gov

Information for this podcast was researched at 


Sally Ride Science at Univ. Cal. San Diego

NBC News

UC San Diego
United States Postal Service

Maya Angelou was the first American women featured on the new U.S. Mint Quarter series – American Women Series.  Click here to listen

Thanks for listening to the Sally Ride episode on Quarter Miles Travel

Remember to click the subscribe button so you’ll be first in line for the next episode.  And, check your pockets or your sofa cushions where you might just find a quarter waiting for you to flip it over. And Quarter Miles Travel Will take it from there – We’ll help you turn that quarter, into an adventure. 




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