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It's been 38 years since the first American woman went to space

Sally Ride led the way for female NASA astronauts when she ventured beyond Earth's atmosphere in 1983.
Credit: AP

Sally Ride is a name that will be forever etched into history after becoming the first American woman in space 38 years ago.

On June 18, 1983, Ride made her mark as a trailblazer when she suited up alongside her crewmates and strapped into her seat on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Once beyond Earth's atmosphere, the then-astronaut's work did not stop there. 

Ride served as the mission specialist on STS-7, regarded as the most complex mission of the shuttle program to date, where she helped launch two commercial communications satellites.

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As if one historic first for space wasn't enough, Ride also was responsible for using the shuttle's robotic arm to deploy the Shuttle Pallet Satellite and retrieve it two days later. According to NASA, the act marked the inaugural use of a shuttle to return a spacecraft back to Earth. 

To get to space, Ride was selected to be a member of 1978 NASA Astronaut Group 8 which the agency says is the first astronaut class to include women. She also worked as the CAPCOM for STS-2 and STS-3 before getting her time in the spotlight. 

Credit: NASA

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Ride wasn't alone in her fight for a stronger female presence in space. Her history-making moment came 20 years, almost to the date, after Russian cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova became the first woman launched into space on Vostok 6 in 1963. 

"Despite the camaraderie between astronauts and cosmonauts even during the height of the Cold War and the thaw afterward, there’s no indication that the two ever met," NASA wrote.

Following in their footsteps, female astronauts haven't slowed down and continue to carry the history-making torch with accomplishments like the first all-female spacewalk and a woman commanding space station for the first time.

But the progress doesn't stop there. Another historic first is on the horizon with the first female astronaut set to put boots on the ground on the Moon in 2024.

You can learn more about Sally Ride and the contributions of other female astronauts here.

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