Sally Ride was born in Encino, California on May 26, 1951. She received degrees in physics and English from Stanford University and was about to finish her Ph.D. in physics when she saw an ad in the Stanford student newspaper saying that NASA was looking for astronauts. She applied and was selected as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. She was selected as a mission specialist for mission STS-7 aboard the shuttle Challenger. When Challenger blasted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space. She retired from NASA in 1987. In 1989, she joined the faculty at the University of California San Diego as a professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute. In 2001 she founded her own company, Sally Ride Science. The company creates innovative classroom materials, classroom programs, and professional development training for teachers. She co-wrote seven science books for children including The Third Planet, The Mystery of Mars, Mission Planet Earth, and Mission Save the Planet, all with Tam O'Shaughnessy. She received the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Award, the Lindbergh Eagle, and the NCAA's Theodore Roosevelt Award. She was twice awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal. She died from pancreatic cancer on July 23, 2012 at the age of 61.