Sally Ride's journey to become the first American woman in space, and the youngest person to go into orbit, began with a handwritten letter.
She wrote to NASA in 1977 after seeing an article in the The Stanford Journal as she was finishing her doctorate in astrophysics at the university.
The article said NASA contacted Stanford to help him "recruit women" in an attempt to hire astronauts to participate in his space shuttle program.
Ride wrote a short handwritten letter in response, requesting an application form. It had only 40 words.
"To whom It May Concern,
I am a doctoral student in astrophysics at Stanford University and am interested in the space shuttle program. Please send me the required forms to apply as a candidate & # 39; mission specialist. "
Sally Ride "
The letter had a slight typo.
This is a photo of the letter, shared with Business Insider by Ride's life partner, Tam O & # 39; Shaughnessy.
The letter set the wheels in motion for Ride to be accepted as one of NASA's six first astronauts, and later the first American woman in space.
Shaughnessy told the Business Insider that Ride had never thought about being an astronaut before seeing the article.
"She was having breakfast in the cafeteria in Stanford, and she had one of those" aha! "Moments.It was like:" Oh my God, I want to do that.I want to try to do this & # 39 ;. Then she sent a letter to NASA. "
Ride first went to space on June 18, 1983 (36 years ago) as a mission specialist on the second mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and she was again in 1984. She was to return again but those plans were stopped when the Challenger was destroyed . in an accident in 1986.
All seven crew members on a space shuttle mission were killed when the Challenger disbanded in just over a minute of flight on January 28, 1986.
Ride said in a 2002 interview shared by NASA that the selection process was "fun" at first.
"I remember this relatively quickly – and I do not know if it was a week or a month – I received a simple one- or two-page application that was not much more than:" There really is someone on the other side of the world "This application? Do you really want to apply?"
The process became more serious and it ended up being accepted as part of NASA's astronaut program.
She became a specialist in NASA's robotic arm system and was named to the commission investigating the Challenger disaster.
In 2013, then-President Barack Obama described Ride, who died in 2012, as "more than an astronaut – she was an American treasure." Obama made the comments as he posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Ride spent his life after his space travel until his death in 2012 to improve science education by founding the nonprofit Sally Ride Science with O & # 39; Shaughnessy to work with school children, write books and lobby for better science education.
She wanted to encourage a greater passion for science, particularly girls.
"I think a lot of people still only think of her as an astronaut," said O & # 39; Shaughnessy.
"But they do not appreciate how much she did backstage to affect space policy, science education policy."
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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