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Sally Ride, America’s First Female Astronaut, to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom


Dr. Sally Ride, American’s first female astronaut, will be honored posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House later this year, President Obama announced Monday.

Astronaut Sally Ride aboard shuttle Challenger in 1983. Photo Credit/NASA photo


The announcement coincided with a tribute to Ride on Monday night at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

Ride, who launched aboard the shuttle Challenger in 1983, died last year of cancer. She was 61. Her passion for science and science education after departing NASA led to the creation of Sally Ride Science, an enterprise that marshaled the resources of academia, government and the private sector to advance science instruction in the nation’s classrooms.

“We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women,” said President Obama. “Sally inspired us to reach for the stars, and she advocated for a greater focus on the science, technology, engineering and math that would help us get there. Sally showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I look forward to welcoming her family to the White House as we celebrate her life and legacy.”

Ride’s educational initiatives included EarthKAM, an Earth observing imager positioned on the International Space Station to encourage a greater understanding of the planet and the environment. The observatory is being renamed in her honor, the Sally Ride EarthKAM.

During ceremonies Monday night, NASA paid additional tribute to Ride with the creation of a new space agency internship program in her name.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made the announcement at the tribute, “Sally Ride: A Lifetime of Accomplishment, A Champion of Science Literacy.”

“Sally’s impact on our nation and future generations of explorers is immeasurable,” said Bolden, who served along side Ride in NASA’s astronaut corps.

Up 10 of the new internships will be available each fall and spring semester to assist students from underserved backgrounds pursue a research interest at one of NASA’s field centers. The internships include opportunities for hands on experience and the chance to work along side NASA professionals.




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