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Sally Ride, Pioneer

FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: Sally Ride was nearing the end of her Ph.D. program in physics when she saw an ad in the Stanford student newspaper looking for new astronauts. That ad led to her career at NASA and her page in the history books. She was an educator, physicist and nationally ranked tennis player, but was chosen to be an astronaut for her technical expertise and cool head. Dr. Ride was a pioneer as both America's first female astronaut and its youngest to fly into space. She died Monday after a 17-month struggle with pancreatic cancer. In 2003, Dr. Ride appeared on SCIENCE FRIDAY and with amazing foresight, she stressed the importance of looking outside NASA for spaceflight research and design.

DR. SALLY RIDE: It's essential to harness the imaginations of the people out there who've been thinking about this. You know, they're - NASA doesn't have, you know, the sole ownership of creative ideas for getting to space. And, you know, a lot of the thinking has been going on for years and years and years, and sometimes you get in a rut with your thinking and sometimes you don't - you lose your creativity, you lose your imagination. And it's essential to have, you know, smart, creative, imaginative people from whatever walk of life and whatever age be able to have some input into the process and be able to have their ideas heard.

LICHTMAN: Sally Ride also spoke to why we must continue to explore space.

RIDE: It is innate in who we are to push back frontiers, to explore, to have a real desire to understand, to try to learn more about ourselves and our environment, in this case, our solar system, our universe. People have been exploring for centuries and centuries and centuries, and they'll still be exploring centuries from now. You know, this is what we do.

LICHTMAN: Sally Ride, dead at the age of 61.


Thank you, Flora.

LICHTMAN: Thank you.

FLATOW: Thanks for joining us today. That's about all the time we have for today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.