On June 18, 1983, NASA Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter space. She launched with her four crewmates on the Shuttle Challenger, on mission STS-7. The ride had been selected with five other women to be part of NASA’s space program back in 1978. With the advances of the space shuttles at the time, NASA expanded their astronaut selection beyond just scientists and engineers. Also, women became eligible for selection.
The astronaut training was particularly grueling, Ride became an expert at using the shuttles robotic arm. As a result, on April 30th, 1982, NASA announced the news that Ride would be part of mission STS-7 as a Mission Specialist. And this was one of the most complex shuttle missions to date.
It was a six-day mission where the crew launched two commercial communication satellites for Canada and Indonesia. The ride also used the robotic arm to deploy a Shuttle Pallet Satellite, which they then retrieved two days later. This was the first time the shuttle was used to return down to Earth also. As they launched a satellite during the mission that flew alongside them, there are some spectacular photos of their Challenger ship.
Importantly, the launch of STS-7 occurred on the 20th anniversary of the first woman ever to enter space, the Soviet cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova. After the success of Yuri Gagarin entering space, Soviet Chief Designer Sergey Korolyov decided he wanted to put a woman in space. They interviewed over 400 female candidates with very strict conditions for selection. Mainly because the Soviet spacecraft at the time required parachuting to ground after re-entry. Valentina was selected in 1962 as the best candidate for the task and launched into space on the Vostok-6 in 1963.
Both Valentina and Ride left their marks on history, two trailblazer women who followed their dreams of conquering space. Despite astronauts from NASA and Russia being very friendly after the end of the Cold War, it is not known if these two remarkable female astronauts ever met.