As the first American female astronaut, Dr. Sally Kristen Ride – a Stanford-educated physicist – has earned a special place in the history of our nation and in the hearts of scientists, engineers, and educators all over the world. Her passing from pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012, came far too soon.
Following her two Shuttle flights on STS-7 and STS-41-G, Dr. Ride continued to serve her country as the operations lead for the Rogers Commission investigating the Challenger accident, the 2003 Columbia Accident Investigation Board, and the 2009 Augustine Committee review of human space flight plans. She also taught as a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego after leaving NASA.
Perhaps her most enduring legacy will be Dr. Ride’s advocacy for STEM education, particularly for young women, as embodied in her company dedicated to encouraging innovative ways of engaging children in math, science, and technology – Sally Ride Science.
EarthKAM is a STEM outreach program sponsored by Sally Ride Science that empowers middle school students around the world to control a digital camera onboard the International Space Station and take pictures of the Earth below. It is one of the most successful education projects on the ISS and has reached tens of thousands of students – in every US state and 32 countries – with its lessons on Earth observation, orbital mechanics, geography, and ecology.
We will best honor Dr. Ride’s vision for science, exploration, and education by continuing to use the Station as a platform for innovative research and student engagement. Her spirit will live on in those noble pursuits.