Sally Ride, first U.S. woman in space, dies at 61 - New York News

Sally Ride, first U.S. woman in space, dies at 61

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Astronaut Sally Ride, monitors control panels from the pilot's chair on the flight deck during STS-7, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., June 18, 1983. (NASA photo) Astronaut Sally Ride, monitors control panels from the pilot's chair on the flight deck during STS-7, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., June 18, 1983. (NASA photo)
MYFOXNY.COM -

Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel into space, has died of pancreatic cancer. She was 61.

Ride, a physicist from California who joined the astronaut program in 1978, flew into space on two shuttle missions aboard Challenger in 1983 and 1984.

"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism -- and literally changed the face of America's space program," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally's family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly."

After leaving NASA in 1989, she joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego, as a professor of physics and director of the University of California's California Space Institute, according to NASA.

She also founded Sally Ride Science, a company that worked to motivate girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology.

"On launch day, there was so much excitement and so much happening around us in crew quarters, even on the way to the launch pad," Ride said in an interview in 2008. "I didn't really think about it that much at the time . . . but I came to appreciate what an honor it was to be selected to be the first to get a chance to go into space."

In a statement from the White House, President Barack Obama said that he and First Lady Michelle Obama were saddened to hear of Ride's death.

"As the first American woman to travel into space, Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model," the president said. "She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sally's family and friends."

Ride held several academic degrees, including a doctorate in physics from Stanford University, was a member of the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and received the Jefferson Award for Public Service.

Ride leaves behind her longtime partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, her mother, her sister, and others, according to the Sally Ride Science website.

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