Sally Ride, the NASA astronaut who became the first American woman in space in 1983, has died after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, her office said today. She was 61 years old and had lived in California
In 1983 and again in 1984, she flew as a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger, conducting experiments, operating the shuttle’s robot arm—and breaking through a very high-altitude glass ceiling.
“Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, commitment, and love,” said her colleagues at Sally Ride Science, an organization she set up after her NASA career to inspire young girls to pursue careers in science and engineering. “Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.”
Born on May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, Sally Kristen Ride studied physics at Stanford University, earning a Ph.D. in 1978. By then she had already been selected as one of NASA’s first six woman astronaut candidates. The agency was gearing up for its new shuttle program, and said it wanted to expand its astronaut corps, which in its early years had been mostly limited to test pilots.
“Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism—and literally changed the face of America’s space program,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement today. “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.”