NASA: Site of Lunar Impact Named for La Jollan Sally Ride

Sally K. Ride—the first American woman in space— was part of the mission. Ride died in July, losing her battle with cancer.

The place where a NASA spacecraft left its mark on the moon last week was named in honor of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team, NASA has announced. Ride was a longtime resident of La Jolla.

"Sally was all about getting the job done, whether it be in exploring space, inspiring the next generation, or helping make the GRAIL mission the resounding success it is today," said GRAIL principal investigator Maria Zuber who was with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "As we complete our lunar mission, we are proud we can honor Sally Ride's contributions by naming this corner of the moon after her."

, after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer.  She became a role model for girls all around the country when she rode the space shuttle Challenger into space on June 18, 1983.

On Facebook, Sally Ride Science posted this comment from Ride's sister Rev. Bear Ride: "It's really cool to know that when you look up now at the moon there's this little corner of the moon that's named after Sally." She added that she hoped schoolchildren will be inspired.

"Sally Ride worked tirelessly throughout her life to remind all of us, especially girls, to keep questioning and learning," said U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD. "Today her passion for making students part of NASA's science is honored by naming the impact site for her."

According to NASA, the impact marked a successful end to the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory  (GRAIL) mission, NASA's first planetary mission to carry cameras fully dedicated to education and public outreach.

Ride led GRAIL's MoonKAM (Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students) Program through her company, Sally Ride Science, in UTC.

Under the mission, two spacecraft — Ebb and Flow—were sent to orbit the moon in 2011, and have been circling it since Jan. 1, 2012. Each spacecraft was carrying a MoonKAM camera, NASA said.

On Dec. 14, the spacecraft were commanded to go to the moon’s surface. The aircraft landed near the moon’s north pole Dec. 17, having travelled at a speed of nearly 4,000 miles per hour.

The MoonKams captured more than 115,000 images of the moon’s surface.

NASA said middle school students from across the country proposed image targets for the cameras. The MoonKam images were sent to the students for them to study.

Images from MoonKam are also posted online, at NASA.gov.

—Michelle Mowad contributed to this article.


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