Two women who became space shuttle commanders after seeing Sally Ride's historic flight in 1983, reflect on the legacy of the first American woman in space.
The news of Sally Ride's death yesterday (July 23) has impacted many around the globe, most especially those who traveled directly in her footsteps.
Sally Ride became the first American woman in space when she flew on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. Since then, dozens of U.S. females have made spaceflights. Two of them, Eileen Collins and Pamela Melroy, achieved another historic milestone, becoming the only women to command a space shuttle mission.
"I knew I wanted to be an astronaut from watching the Apollo astronauts land on the moon, but Sally cemented the belief inside me that I could do it," Melroy wrote in an email to SPACE.com. "She paved the way for women to work in space and made it so much easier for other women to follow where she led."
Collins became the first female space shuttle commander when she led the STS-93 flight of the shuttle Columbia in July 1999, just 16 years after Ride's first flight. Melroy then commanded the space shuttle Discovery in 2007, becoming the last woman to command a shuttle before the fleet retired in 2011. [Sally Ride: 1st American Woman in Space (Pictures)]