Sally Kristen Ride is recognized by NASA as the first American woman in space, as well as the youngest astronaut to leave Earth overall. She was a part of two missions aboard the space shuttle Challenger and logged 343 total hours in space during her career.
Sally Ride joined NASA as a physicist and mission specialist in 1978 after earning four degrees at Stanford, including a Ph.D. in Physics. After completing her training at the age of 32, she became the first woman to orbit the Earth during her first Challenger mission in June 1983. After a second flight aboard Challenger in 1984, she remained part of the organization's earthbound support staff and was also chosen as a member of the investigative team formed in the wake of the 1986 Challenger disaster.
Ride left NASA three years later to join the staff at her alma mater, where she served at the university's Center for International Security and Arms Control before moving on to the University of California, San Diego as a physics professor. Later in life, she was asked to return to NASA's investigative team after the Columbia disaster of 2003 and is the only person to have served on both investigations. Ride went on to write several children's books promoting science before succumbing to a battle with pancreatic cancer in 2012.