Ride was born in Encino, Los Angeles, California and went to high school at Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles (now Harvard-Westlake School). She initially attended Swarthmore College but received her bachelor's degrees (English and physics) from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. She eventually received a master degree and a PhD in physics at the same institution, while doing research in astrophysics, general relativity, and free-electron laser physics. She later became the first American woman in space as part of a 1983 Space Shuttle Challenger crew of STS-7. She has cumulatively spent more than 343 hours in space.
She occasionally appears on television, in shows or commercials. She is the author of several children's books about space exploration.