This is the first in a series of Western Slope Skies episodes about Women in Astronomy. We hope that, in some manner, these inspire our young female listeners to become involved in astronomy.
On June 16, 1963, the Russians launched Vostok 6. The lone astronaut on board was Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. She was in space for 48 orbits over three days. In her single mission, she logged more time in space than all the American astronauts who had been in space to that date combined.
Tereshkova earned a doctorate in engineering after her career as an astronaut ended. To this day, Ms. Tereshkova is still the only woman to fly solo in space.
In 1982, Svetlana Savitskaya, also Russian, became the second woman in space.
On June 20, 1983, twenty years after Tereshkova’s flight, NASA launched Space Shuttle Mission STS-7. On board was Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space and only the third female astronaut.
Sally Ride helped design the robotic arm on the Shuttle and was the chief operator of the arm during the 1983 mission. Dr. Ride received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in physics from Stanford University.
She also flew on STS-41 in Oct 1984. Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, a geologist, was another crew member on this mission and the first woman to walk in space. Dr. Ride logged over 340 hours in two missions, and Dr Sullivan logged 532 hours in three missions.
Following a career with NASA, Ride taught physics at UC-San Diego. In 2001, she founded the Sally Ride Science Company, which creates science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls.
Sally Ride died in July 2012, leaving a strong legacy for future female scientists.In December, 2012, NASA named the final landing site of the lunar gravity probes, Grail A and B, in honor of Sally Ride.
Western Slope Skies is produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society, who take a look at our “local” night sky. Hear it on the Friday morning local newscast (from 8-8:15 AM) and on Wednesday nights at 8 PM during Global Express.