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Dr. Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman to travel into space, speaks to the media at the San Diego Aerospace Museum February 7, 2003 in San Diego. Ride gave her condolences to the families of the lost space shuttle Columbia astronauts and spoke about the future of the space program.
NASA made news Monday by announcing a new class of astronauts that was half-female, but Tuesday marks the 30th anniversary of Encino native Sally Ride becoming the first American woman in space.
Ride died late last year of cancer, but she avoided earlier disaster based on the timing of her flight — Ride rode the shuttle Challenger, which exploded after launch a few years later. She was buried in Santa Monica. It was also revealed in her obituary that she had a female partner for the past 27 years, making her the first known homosexual to travel to outer space.
Watch Ride describe the “spectacular view” of Earth from space in this video NASA released last year:
Ride described the launch in her book, “To Space & Back”:
"3 … 2 … 1 … The rockets light! The shuttle leaps off the launch pad in a cloud of steam and a trail of fire. Inside, the ride is rough and loud. Our heads are rattling around inside our helmets. We can barely hear the voices from Mission Control in our headsets above the thunder of the rockets and engines. For an instant I wonder if everything is working right. But there’s no more time to wonder, and no time to be scared.
"In only a few seconds we zoom past the clouds. Two minutes later the rockets burn out, and with a brilliant whitish-orange flash, they fall away from the shuttle as it streaks on toward space. Suddenly the ride becomes very, very smooth and quiet. The shuttle is still attached to the big tank, and the launch engines are pushing us out of Earth’s atmosphere. The sky is black. All we can see of the trail of fire behind us is a faint, pulsating glow through the top window.
"The atmosphere thins gradually as we travel farther from Earth. At fifty miles up, we’re above most of the air, and we’re officially ‘in space.’"