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Geek Trivia: What unlikely method did NASA use to recruit Sally Ride into the astronaut corps?

What anachronistic recruiting method did NASA employ to enlist its first female astronaut?
When Sally Ride was completing her doctorate in physics at Stanford in 1977, she saw an ad in the university's student newspaper encouraging men and -- for the first time -- women to apply for the NASA astronaut corps. It was literally an astronaut candidate cattle call for college science nerds. Ride applied, along with 8,000 other applicants. By 1978 she was a full-fledged astronaut candidate. In 1983, she flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger as a mission specialist for STS-7 at a mere 32 years of age -- still an American record.

Not bad for a former junior tennis star turned English major turned physics post-grad who answered a newspaper ad. The recruitment method isn't a one-off fluke, either. Great Britain recruited its first astronaut -- chemist Helen Sharman -- with a radio ad. It seems as though mass media is a not an ineffectual method for drumming up interest in a career in astronautics, somewhat notably for women.

Fittingly, Ride's post-NASA career included the founding of an educational entity, Sally Ride Science, which encourages children -- particularly young girls -- to pursue education and careers in the sciences. Sally Ride Science Festivals encourage scientific inquiry by 5th- to 8th-grade girls, and they often earn notice by mass media publications.

That's not just some apropos application of astronautic avocation; it's a refreshing reciprocal representation of Geek Trivia.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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