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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics



    AIAA Mourns the Death of Sally K. Ride
    First American Woman in Space


    July 24, 2012 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) mourns the death of Sally K. Ride, the first American woman in space, who passed away on July 23, 2012, in La Jolla, Calif., after an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 61.

    AIAA Executive Director Robert S. Dickman stated: “Most Americans met Sally Ride, the first American woman astronaut, when she was a crewmember on STS-7, and they met her again when she flew on STS-41-G. We got to know her in a different role, when she served on the Challenger accident investigation commission. We realized how much depth there was to this remarkable woman with her work authoring “Leadership and America’s Future in Space.” For 30 years Sally, this “private” person, served the nation and human spaceflight in the most challenging roles: serving as an astronaut, helping identify the unwelcome causes of the accidents that took 14 of her friends, and setting new directions for NASA and the space program; all the while inspiring the next generation that will make her, and our, dreams come true. We’ll miss you, Sally Ride – probably much more than we realize today.”

    Ride became the first American woman in space on June 18, 1983, as a mission specialist on Space Shuttle Challenger, STS-7, on a six-day mission to launch communication satellites and conduct research. She returned to space on October 5, 1984, as a mission specialist on Space Shuttle Challenger, STS-41-G, on an eight-day mission to deploy the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite. Ride was assigned for a third mission on Space Shuttle Challenger, but the mission was cancelled upon the tragic loss of the space shuttle and its crew of seven on January 28, 1986.

    Ride is the only person to have served on both the commission that investigated the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the commission that investigated the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

    Following her tenure at NASA, Ride joined the faculty at the University of California at San Diego, as a professor of physics and director of the University of California’s California Space Institute. In 2001 she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, which specializes in the creation of science curriculum and programming for students in grades K–12. She was the author of five books on science for children.

    Ride served on the U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee, the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, and the National Research Council's Space Studies Board. The 1984 recipient of AIAA’s Lawrence Sperry Award, she was a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. She sat on the board of directors of both The Aerospace Corporation and the California Institute of Technology.

    Ride enjoyed a bit of pop-culture fame as well, garnering a mention in the 1980s segment of pop icon Billy Joel’s 1989 No. 1 hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” a rapid review of American history from 1949 to 1989.


    AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. With more than 35,000 individual members worldwide, and nearly 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit



    American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 500, Reston, VA 20191-4344
    Phone: 703.264.7558 Fax: 703.264.7551