Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman to enter space and a heroine to little girl science geeks, died Monday of pancreatic cancer. She was 61 years old.
Born in 1951 in Encino, California, she grew up interested in science and athletics, and at one point was a nationally-ranked tennis player.
Ride received her doctorate in physics from Stanford University, where she focused on astrophysics and free electron laser physics. She joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 she flew as a Mission Specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger. That day she became the first American woman and the youngest American to fly in space.
Ride would go to space again in 1984, again flying on the Challenger. In 1986, she was appointed to the Rogers Commission, which investigated the destruction of the Challenger. In 1987, she left NASA to work at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.
Ride went on to serve as a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and as the head of the California Space Institute. In 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science, which provides science educational materials for teachers.
In 2003, Ride again served as an investigator of a space disaster, this time the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia. In 2009, she served on the Augustine Committee, which reviewed options for future American manned spaceflight.
Ride was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010. She is survived by Dr. Tam O’Shaugnessy, her partner of 27 years.
Leave comments here that we can forward to the Sally Rice Center as part of her history.
Image Credit: NASA