07/24/2012 12:42 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2012

Sally Ride's Heroic And Trailblazing Life As An Astronaut

On June 19, 1983, just after 7:30 on a brilliant Florida morning, Sally Ride and four crewmates roared into space on a white-hot surge of rocket power. Officially, it was STS-7, the seventh trip for the nation’s two-year-old space-shuttle system. But for most folks watching that day, the mission of the shuttle Challenger represented something far more revolutionary: the first flight of an American woman into space.

Sally carried the dreams of her earthbound sisters with grace and good humor. As the shuttle shot skyward with a force far beyond that of any amusement-park ride, the trim, 32-year-old Californian immediately connected with Americans everywhere by radioing her counterpart back in Houston: “Have you ever been to Disneyland? This is definitely an E ticket”—in other words, the hottest ride of all.

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