Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) was an American physicist and a former NASA astronaut who, in 1983, became the first American woman and youngest American (at the time) to enter space.
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Scholastic interview (1998)
- When you're getting ready to launch into space, you're sitting on a big explosion waiting to happen. So most astronauts getting ready to lift off are excited and very anxious and worried about that explosion — because if something goes wrong in the first seconds of launch, there's not very much you can do.
- It takes a few years to prepare for a space mission. It takes a couple of years just to get the background and knowledge that you need before you can go into detailed training for your mission. So most astronauts are astronauts for a couple of years before they are assigned to a flight. Once you are assigned to a flight, the whole crew is assigned at the same time, and then that crew trains together for a whole year to prepare for that flight.
- It's easy to sleep floating around — it's very comfortable. But you have to be careful that you don't float into somebody or something!
- The view of Earth is spectacular. The shuttle is pretty close to Earth. It only flies between 200 and 350 miles above Earth. So it's really pretty close. So we don't see the whole planet, like the astronauts who went to the moon did. So we can see much more detail. We can see cities during the day and at night, and we can watch rivers dump sediment into the ocean, and see hurricanes form. It's just a lot of fun and very interesting to look out the window.
- When you're on Earth, if you go to the top of a mountain, the stars look much brighter than they do at sea level. And because the space shuttle is above Earth's atmosphere, it's like being on a very, very high mountain. So they look brighter, but not bigger.
- There might be very primitive life in our solar system — single-cell animals, that sort of thing. We may know the answer to that in five or ten years. There is very likely to be life in other solar systems, in planets around other stars. But we won't know about that for a long time.