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07/24/2012 07:00:00

Caltech Mourns the Passing of Sally Ride

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space and a former Caltech trustee, passed away Monday, July 23, 2012. She was 61.

Ride joined NASA in 1978 as part of the first astronaut class to admit women. In 1983, she made history as the first female astronaut aboard a NASA space shuttle. At the time, 32-year-old Ride was also the youngest U.S. astronaut. A year later, she made a second trip on the same shuttle, Challenger, before serving as the first director of NASA's Office of Exploration.

"Sally's legacy will be that she was the first American woman in space—but what she would probably want to be remembered for is her influence over young people," says Kent Kresa, chairman of the Caltech Board of Trustees. "She was a rock star in her own right. Every time we had a Sally Ride Summer Camp or Science Festival here at Caltech, young girls would flock around her to talk about space and science."  

In 2000, Ride was appointed to the Caltech Board of Trustees, where she served until 2011. She was also a professor of physics, emerita, at the University of California, San Diego, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a science education company aimed at promoting STEM education for elementary and middle-school students, with a particular focus on encouraging scientific curiosity in girls. Caltech has been involved with her organization since 2002 through on-campus science fairs and a day camp for young girls.

"The Caltech community is honored to have collaborated with Sally Ride to advance science and space exploration in our country and the world," says Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau. "Sally was a champion for Caltech and a strong advocate for engaging youth in science education. We join her family, friends, and the world in celebrating Sally's life and contributions."

Written by Katie Neith