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If you like Sally Ride's story, you might also like:
Elizabeth Blackburn,
Linda Buck,
Sylvia Earle,
Gertrude Elion,
Daniel J. Goldin,
Jane Goodall,
Dorothy Hamill,
Susan Hockfield,
Meave Leakey,
Paul MacCready,
John Mather,
Story Musgrave,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Donna Shirley,
Alan Shepard,
Clyde Tombaugh
and Chuck Yeager

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Sally Ride Interview (page: 4 / 6)

First American Woman in Space

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What did your family and friends think when you applied to the astronaut program?

Sally Ride Interview Photo
Sally Ride: They were very, very supportive. I had a lot of friends who also applied to the astronaut program, so they understood completely why I wanted to do it. My parents at least gave the impression that they were very supportive and very excited, and I am positive my father was. I am less positive about my mother, but I think both of them were very excited and very supportive.

Why exactly did you want to do this?

Sally Ride: It's something that was just deep inside me. There is really no other way to describe it. The moment I saw the opportunity, I knew that that is what I wanted to do. I can't explain why I wanted to do it, it's just something that was part of me.

Can you trace it back to those black and white pictures on television?

Sally Ride: Probably so. I was fascinated by those. I remember where I was watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, as all of us who were alive and watching television in those days do, but I was really taken by those pictures.

How hard was it to become an astronaut?


Sally Ride: It was hard to become an astronaut. It was hard to make it through the selection process and the training itself was very difficult, not anywhere near as much physical training as people imagine, but a lot of mental training, a lot of learning. You have to learn everything there is to know about the Space Shuttle and everything you are going to be doing, and everything you need to know if something goes wrong, and then once you have learned it all, you have to practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice until everything is second nature, so it's a very, very difficult training, and it takes years.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance


Did you ever have self-doubts, or fear of failure that you weren't going to be able to do this?

Sally Ride: Actually, I didn't. I am not quite sure what that says, but I didn't.


I didn't have any doubts that that was what I wanted to be doing, and I didn't have any doubts that I would be able to do it. Up until that point, up until I joined the astronaut corps, you could say I was a professional student. I had made it through high school, undergraduate, graduate school, to a Ph.D., so I knew how to learn things. I knew how to study, I knew how to concentrate and to dedicate myself to learning one particular area, and that's what I was doing again, so I was fairly confident and comfortable actually in the environment.


Did you think of yourself as a trailblazer or as a pioneer, not just in space, but for women in space?

Sally Ride: You know, I didn't.


We all knew that the six of us were the first six women to enter the astronaut corps; we were very well aware of that. We realized that this was a significant breakthrough and that to some extent, we were pioneers and trailblazers, but I have to say that I don't think I appreciated how much of a trailblazer I was for women and how much women would look up to me as a role model and the things that I had done until after my first flight, after I landed, partly because while I was in training, I was pretty well insulated by NASA. They wanted me in training. They wanted me to learn what I was supposed to learn. They didn't want me out talking to reporters and the press and the public. So I was not unaware. I read newspapers, I watched television, but I wasn't face to face with women until I came back from my flight, and then it hit home pretty hard how important it was to an awful lot of women in the country.


What did you think NASA saw in you that they didn't see in the others, when they chose you to be the first American woman in space?

Sally Ride: That's hard to say.


I think that I had a lot of the qualities that they were looking for in any astronaut that they select. An understanding of the importance of teamwork and ability to learn things, an ability to recognize a role as a member of a team. Sort of an ability to do things carefully, go through a checklist, make sure that you have done, in science, the experiment correctly in space, gone through the experiment or the checklist correctly. I have no idea why they chose me among the six of us to be the first American woman to get a chance to go into space. That's one of the things that NASA does very well, is keep its secrets on how it selects crews. None of us know why we were selected for any given crew. So I know that the commander of the flight, Bob Crippen, had some input into that decision, but he didn't get to decide, and I have no idea how that decision was made. I'd love to know.


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This page last revised on Mar 04, 2011 18:27 EDT
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