Astronaut Sally Ride sailed away on the shuttle Challenger when she was only 32, making her both the first American woman and the youngest person in space up to the time of this posting. A physicist with a Ph.D. from Stanford University, she was accepted into NASA as part of a new wave of scientists recruited to run experiments (and create Challenger‘s robot arm). After she had participated in two flights, her shuttle broke apart after liftoff, and she spent the remainder of her time with NASA on the ground in administrative roles.
Following her career as an astronaut, Ride was hired as a physics professor by the University of California, San Diego, and as director of the California Space Institute. For the remainder of her life she pursued projects designed to pique children’s interest in space, with a focus on girls. When she passed away, at her request, her obituary named her female parter; it marked the first time she had come out to the general public.