Sally Ride answers questions regarding space

First woman in space talks as last UniverCity speaker.

As the final keynote speaker, former astronaut Sally Ride closed UniverCity Friday night, speaking to an audience of more than 1,000 in Emens Auditorium.

Ride said she first became interested in the space program while she was a graduate student at Stanford University.

After she saw an ad in the university's newspaper, Ride said she noticed NASA was looking for applicants to the space shuttle program, particularly women.

"You could say that I got the job by responding to an ad in the newspaper," she said. "[It] just shows that it pays to read your student newspaper."

After a long application process, Ride was one of six women admitted to the NASA astronaut class of 1977.

She flew two shuttle missions in her career as an astronaut, but left the the space program in 1987 following the 1986 Challenger explosion to do what she always knew she would do - teach.

Ride, who gained fame in 1983 by being the first woman from the United States to travel in space, is now a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego.

In addition to teaching and research, Ride now participates in programs that encourage elementary, middle and high school students, especially girls, to pursue studies in math and science.

She co-founded the company Imaginary Lines, Inc., which sponsors events and activities that encourage middle school and high school-aged girls to keep up their interests in math, science and technology.

Ride said NASA is at the forefront of a revolution that is trying to understand Earth and its place in the universe. She then presented a series of slides taken from space shuttles.

"One of the advantages that astronauts have over most speakers," Ride said, "is that we've got great pictures."

Following her speech, Ride then took questions from members of the audience.

Ball State sophomore Anita Brown asked Ride about the billions of dollars spent on space programs in the U.S., wanting to know what the space programs give back to the American people.

"I think that [question] is something that the country should struggle with continuously," Ride said.

Ride explained that space travel has "spun off" advancements in technology that are used in our everyday lives.

For example, engineers have used the same technology to create miniature devices used in space to create miniature medical devices, she said.

Ride said she has her own reasons for supporting government spending on space programs.

"It's an example of what a nation of people can do if they put their minds and energies behind it," Ride said. "It's an extension of our desire to continue exploring, continue pushing frontiers of physical space."

Ride said she believes the space program gives children something to look forward to and feel excited about. She concluded her speech by encouraging the audience to encourage boys and girls to reach for the stars and go ahead and achieve their dreams too.


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