Sally Ride (third from left) and her fellow STS-7 astronauts were joined by other NASA and Air Force officials for photos after greeting NASA Dryden employees and visitors following her historic space shuttle mission on the shuttle Challenger on June 24, 1983. (NASA photo) › View Larger Image
Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died July 23 at the age of 61.
Her website, Sally Ride Science, indicated her death was the result of pancreatic cancer.
Sally Ride's official NASA portrait when she was selected to become an astronaut in 1978. (NASA photo) › View Larger Image Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7 June 18, 1983. Two years later, she flew again on the Challenger for the 13th shuttle flight, STS-41-G in October 1984.
Her first shuttle mission landed at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California on June 24, 1983. Ride, along with her fellow STS-7 astronauts, received accolades from assembled news media personnel, Dryden and Air Force employees and members of the public at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center during and after the post-flight news conference.
Ride left NASA in 1989 to teach physics at Stanford University and then at the University of California, San Diego. She founded Sally Ride Science in 2001, which creates classroom materials and training for teachers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Her website, Sally Ride Science, posted the following tribute after her passing:
Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.
Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.
Sally's historic flight into space captured the nation's imagination and made her a household name. She became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately-inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.
Sally Ride joined her fellow STS-7 crewmembers for their official mission portrait in March 1983, three months prior to launch. Beside Ride at left are STS-7 commander Robert L. Crippen and pilot Frederick H. Hauch. Standing behind are mission specialists John M. Fabian and Norman E. Thagard. (NASA photo) › View Larger Image NASA Administrator and former space shuttle astronaut Charlie Bolden offered his personal remembrances of Ride.
"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism - and literally changed the face of America's space program," said 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."
"Sally was a personal and professional role model to me and thousands of women around the world," added NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. "Her spirit and determination will continue to be an inspiration for women everywhere."
Ride recalled her history-making space flight in an interview on the 25th anniversary of her flight in 2008.
"The fact that I was going to be the first American woman to go into space carried huge expectations along with it," Ride related. "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."
Former NASA astronaut Steve Hawley, who was married to Ride for five years from 1982 through 1987, remembered her as one who was forced to balance two very opposite roles.
"Sally was a very private person who found herself a very public persona. It was a role in which she was never fully comfortable. I was privileged to be a part of her life and be in a position to support her as she became the first American woman to fly in space.
"While she never enjoyed being a celebrity, she recognized that it gave her the opportunity to encourage children, particularly young girls, to reach their full potential," Hawley continued.
"Sally Ride, the astronaut and the person, allowed many young girls across the world to believe they could achieve anything if they studied and worked hard. I think she would be pleased with that legacy."
Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy as well as her mother, sister, niece and nephew.
For more on Sally Ride's life and career, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/Ocn6h7