Sally Ride during her time in college at Stanford (Stanford University News Service)

Choosing a Scientist

Sally Kristen Ride is born in 1951, in Los Angeles, California. Sally is a sports nut. By age five, she's reading the sports page of the newspaper by herself. She loves tennis, and she also plays softball with the neighborhood boys. Sally's often the first one picked for a team. In high school, she becomes a top tennis player.

In 1972, one of the world's greatest female tennis players, Billie Jean King, sees Sally play. She suggests that Ride quit college and become a tennis pro. She could be a star! But Sally Ride chooses instead to stay in school. She earns degrees in English and in physics.

After getting her Ph.D. in physics, Sally Ride starts looking for a job. An ad in the college paper catches her eye. NASA wants astronauts, and for the first time, women will be considered. Ride applies, along with 1,251 other women and about 7,000 men. In January 1978, NASA chooses 35 astronauts, including six female scientists. One of them is Sally K. Ride. When Sally gets the news, she is thrilled. "I'm so excited. I'd like to go up tomorrow!" she says.