Sally Ride was the first American woman in space.

Sally Ride at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1977 was a monumental year for Sally Kristen Ride. After responding to a newspaper ad that was recruiting astronauts, she became one of six women accepted into the program.

Ride's training at NASA was a far cry from her Ph.D. studies in astrophysics at Stanford University. Among other duties, she jumped out of airplanes, underwent weightlessness training, and learned how to survive for long periods in water.

She started her career on the ground, acting as mission control communications officer for the Columbia Space Shuttle missions that took place in November 1981 and March 1982. In 1983, she finally earned what no other American woman had done before: the chance to fly into space. She took her first trip aboard the Challenger.

After the Challenger exploded in 1986, Ride joined the team responsible for investigating the tragedy. Afterward, she worked at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C, where she wrote a report called "Leadership and America's Future in Space."

In 1987, Ride left NASA and returned to Stanford University as a Science Fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control.

She is now the director of the California Space Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego.