Meet Mustang Sally who is inspired by Sally Kristen Ride, the first American woman in space. She was an astrophysicist and an astronaut aboard the space shuttle, Challenger. She won many awards during her lifetime and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame. There are two elementary schools named after her. One is in Texas and the other is in Maryland.
Mustang Sally is dressed in a version of her blue, NASA training uniform complete with mission patches and working zippers. In an homage to her beautiful head of riotous curls, I found soft, looped yarn. As a child, I often wondered how she was able to get her helmet on over those curls. Pictures of her in the zero gravity of space, show just how unruly those curls could become.
Sally Ride was born in Encino, California on May 26, 1951, to Dale Burdell Ride, a professor at Santa Monica College, and Carol Joyce Ride, a volunteer counselor at a women’s correctional facility. She grew up in Los Angeles with her sister, Karen, and later attended Stanford University. At Stanford she obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics and English. She continued to study physics there and earned a master’s degree in 1975 and her PhD in 1978.
In 1978, she won a spot in the NASA astronaut program. On June 18, 1983, after a very rigorous training program, she was a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle, Challenger. She returned to Earth on June 24th. She was a mission specialist again on a trip later that year. She was scheduled for a third trip, but in 1984, space shuttle Challenger exploded after launching.
Sally served on the Roger’s Commission after that tragedy, to determine what could have caused the explosion. Following her work on the Commission, she was assigned to NASA headquarters in Washington D.C.
In 1987, Ride left her position in Washington, D.C., to work at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control. In 1989, she became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the California Space Institute. From the mid-1990s until her death, Ride led two public-outreach programs for NASA—the ISS EarthKAM an GRAIL MoonKAM projects, in cooperation with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UCSD. The programs allowed middle school students to request images of the Earth and Moon.
In 2003, after the devastating tragedy of yet another shuttle exploding, this time on reentry, she was asked to serve on theColumbia Accident Investigation Board.
She was the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she co-founded in 2001, to help inspire girls and young women to pursue careers in science and math. Ride wrote or co-wrote seven books about space aimed at children, with the goal of encouraging children to study science.
She was a member of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee, an independent review requested by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. (OSTP) on May 7, 2009.
On July 23, 2012, Sally Kristen Ride died at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer. She is remembered as a pioneering woman of science, an astronaut and tireless advocate for women pursuing their interests and careers in STEM. After her death, it was also revealed that she was gay, and had long-term relationship with her partner. Her signature statement was “Reach for the stars.” She lived this phrase and blazed a trail for others to follow.
Sally inspires us to never let anyone or anything stop you from reaching for your dreams.