Sally Ride, First American Woman in Space, Dies at 61

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.

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Image Credit: NASA

62 comments

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill5 months ago

What must she have thought of Obama's decision to out-source our space program? He talks about Romney out-sourcing, that is exactly what he has done!

Neville B.
Neville B.5 months ago

A shining example in yet another field that women are not factually limited by stereotypes - except by those trying to enforce the stereotyping.

Succint comment (#5) by Mari Garcia! So many great ripples on this page, thanks to this lady taking the plunge.

Hope Sheppard
Hope Sheppard4 years ago

I retired after teaching Earth Science to middle school students. Sally Ride was our hero. My students were middle class in a suburban school. My female students followed Sally's accomplishments and hopefully chose vocations where before only men had gone. Pancreatic cancer is a terrible disease and the fight has only begun. We are losing too many people to this so far untreatable cancer. Let's fight this cancer and give Sally one more first by defeating Pancreatic cancer. Fight for Sally fight!!!!

reece castellano
reece C.4 years ago

Denying her partner benefits is something this country should be completely ashamed of. This woman is a hero. She has acomplished more in her life as an astronaut, teacher, writer, and professor, than most americans could ever dream of. The republicans and spineless democrats who keep allowing this to happen owe Ms. Ride and the rest of this country an apology, in the form of a repeal of DOMA and every other discriminatory law on the books. NOW!

Sheri P.
Sheri P.4 years ago

so sad...she was an inspiration to many!

L. C.
Ms. L. C.4 years ago

Sally Ride Was A Wonderful Person, And Inspired Many! She Will Be Missed!

L. C.
Ms. L. C.4 years ago

Sally Ride Was A Wonderful Person, And Inspired Many! She Will Be Missed!

tiffany t.
tiffany t.4 years ago

Thank you Dr. Ride for courage, inspiration, and the will to follow your dreams. You will be missed, never forgotten!

Namaste

paul m.
paul m.4 years ago

lovely lady ,, Love her..will be missed ,,

CATHE ODOM
CATHE ODOM4 years ago

HER EXISTENCE VALIDATED MY DAUGHTERS GOALS FOR THEIR FUTURE. HER LIFE SUCH A GIFT OF ENCOURAGEMENT. I AM GLAD MS. RIDE, LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO APPRECIATE HER OWN VALUE THROUGH THE EYES OF OTHERS! SHE IS ENDING THIS PART OF HER RIDE...ONLY TO TRANSITION ON...TO THE ULTIMATE RIDE OF HER LIFE.. NEXT...PARADISE!