June 18, 1983: STS-7 launches. The Space Transportation System’s mission was the seventh for the Space Shuttle Challenger. The launch took place from Kennedy Space Center at 11:33:00 UTC with five crewmembers aboard. Their mission was to deploy several satellites into orbit and perform some microgravity research. The flight lasted just over six days and the crew travelled slightly more than 2.5 million miles completing 97 orbits of the home world. Challenger was landed at Edwards Air Force Base on June 24, 1983 at 13:56:59 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). What was noteworthy about this specific mission was that one of the crew members, Sally Ride, was the first American woman to go into space.
Ride was born in Los Angeles, California in 1951 and was a physicist and astronaut. She found an advertisement in the Stanford University newspaper seeking applicants to the space program. She was one of 8,000 applicants. She joined NASA in 1978 and on this date not only became the first woman, but the youngest American astronaut to travel into space. She was just 32 at the time of her historic flight. She was the ground-based capsule communicator for STS-2 and STS-3. Even as she prepared, the media focused on her gender and asked her the most inane questions to which she responded that she saw herself simply as an astronaut. Two Soviet women had already made the trip to space.
Ride went to space, again aboard the Challenger, in 1984. She spent 343 hours in space and was training for another mission when the Challenger disaster took place. She began working in Washington, D.C. where she led the first strategic planning effort for NASA. She left that position in 1987 and returned to California where she worked first for Stanford University and then for University of California, San Diego. She continued to advocate for NASA and space exploration. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and seventeen months later died of the disease on July 23, 2012. She was 61 years old.
The Space Shuttle Challenger was involved in ten missions, nine of them successful. The first, STS-6, was launched on April 4, 1983 and returned to Earth on April 9. The ship spend 62 days, 7 hours, 56.22 seconds in space and made 995 orbits. Challenger travelled 25,803,939 miles. The last fateful trip, mission STS-51-L was launched on January 28, 1986. Just 73 seconds into the mission, the ship exploded and burst apart, killing the seven crew members including the first civilian, teacher Christa McAuliffe. This disaster grounded the entire Space Shuttle fleet for almost three years as improved safety measures were instituted.
The stars don’t look bigger, but they do look brighter.
All adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.
When you’re getting ready to launch into space, you’re sitting on a big explosion waiting to happen.
I did not come to NASA to make history. – all from Sally Ride
Also on this day: Mental Institutions and Being Governor – In 1959, Governor Earl Long was committed to a mental institution.
Taxi! – In 1923, the first Checker Cab rolled off the assembly line.
One Woman – No Vote – In 1873, Susan B. Anthony was found guilty of trying to vote.
What Was Up There? – In 1178, five monks observed an astronomical phenomenon.
Appeal – In 1940, Charles de Gaulle asked the world for help.