Sally Ride Dead At 61 Years Old
July 23, 2012

Sally Ride Dead At 61 Years Old

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, has taken her final journey, passing on at the young age of 61 years old.

Ride, who became a household name after venturing off into space for the first time in 1983, died on Monday after battling pancreatic cancer for 17 months.

"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism — and literally changed the face of America´s space program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a press release. "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."

On June 18, 1983, she took off aboard space shuttle Challenger for STS-7 mission and became the first American woman in space.

“The fact that I was going to be the first American woman to go into space carried huge expectations along with it,” Ride recalled in an interview for the 25th anniversary of her flight in 2008. “That was made pretty clear the day that I was told I was selected as a crew. I was taken up to Chris Kraft´s office. He wanted to have a chat with me and make sure I knew what I was getting into before I went on the crew. I was so dazzled to be on the crew and go into space I remembered very little of what he said.”

“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. “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.”

During the mission, she and her crew deployed two communications satellites and conducted pharmaceutical experiments.

Her journey outside the Earth's atmosphere didn't end with one trip. In 1984, she took a second flight aboard the Challenger and spent more than 343 hours in space.

During the 8-day mission, the crew deployed the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, conducted scientific observations of Earth, and demonstrated potential satellite refueling techniques.

After her career ended with NASA in 1987, Ride went to work at the Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control.

She moved on from that position, and worked as a professor of physics at the University of California and Director of the California Space Institute in 1989.

Ride was among the experts called in by NASA during the Challenger and Columbia disasters to help assess what caused the accidents.

She founded the Sally Ride Science company in 2001, helping to create science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, particularly young girls.

“Sally was a personal and professional role model to me and thousands of women around the world,” NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said in the release. “Her spirit and determination will continue to be an inspiration for women everywhere.”

Ride received several awards during her career, and was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

She is survived by Tam O´Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, and her mother, Joyce, and a sister, Bear.