If there were ever the most recognizable female in astronomy, Sally Ride surely tops the list. In 1983, she became the first American woman and youngest American (at the time) to successfully make the trip to outer space. In this article, we will take a look at Ride’s achievements, as well as introduce you to Svetlana Savitskaya, the USSR cosmonaut who accomplished greatness of her own.
6) Sally Ride
Her educational background consisted of attending Swarthmore College and receiving her bachelor’s degree in both English and physics from Stanford University. Her master’s degree and PhD would follow in physics from the same school. She was also conducting research in astrophysics and free-electron laser physics during her studies at Stanford.
Ride beat out 8,899 people who answered an ad in a newspaper that sought applicants for the space program. This led to her joining NASA in 1978. Throughout her career in space, she served as the Capsule Communicator (CapCom) for the second and third Space Shuttle flights (STS-2 and STS-3). She was quite influential, as she played an important role in creating the robot arm of the Space Shuttle. On June 18th, 1983, she made history herself when she became the first American female in space when she joined the four others as the crew on the Space Shuttle Challenger for STS-7. Her crew was in charge of deploying two communications satellites and conduct pharmaceutical experiments. They also had the honor of becoming the first astronauts to use the robotic arm, later using it to retrieve a satellite.
The second time that Ride entered outer space was in 1984, when she was aboard the Challenger once again. In total, she clocked in more than 343 hours in space during her career.
1984 , Svetlana Savitskaya , First Space Walk for Women
A Moscow, Russia native, Savitskaya was a Soviet aviator before she became one of the most talked about cosmonauts. When she flew the Soyuz T-7 in 1982, she became the second woman in space after Valentina Tereshkova. This was an amazing 19 years later. In 1980, Savitskaya began her training to become an explorer of outer space. However, her most shining moment came in July 25th, 1984, when she became the first woman to ever perform a space walk. The number of hours that she spent outside of the space station was 3 hours and 35 minutes.
Once she returned to Earth, she was given the duties of commander of the Soyuz crew that was comprised of all females. A mission was planned for the ladies, but the opportunity was later scrapped. In the coming years, she would win the Hero of the Soviet Union award on two occasions.
Other accomplishments during her career included the adventures of a test and sports pilot, where she started setting records on an international level in MiG aircraft and in team parachute jumping. In 1970, she also took home a first place finish at the 6th FAI World Aerobatic Championship. Retirement for Savitskaya came in 1993 from the Russian Air Force. She left with a rank of Major.