Sally K. Ride, the first American woman to orbit Earth, died Monday after fighting a battle with pancreatic cancer . She was 61- years-old.
Ride was chosen as an astronaut in 1978, Ride entered space with four male colleagues on June 18, 1983, on the shuttle Challenger. This was the seventh flight of the program.
However, Ride wasn’t the first woman in space. That distinction fell to the Soviet Union’s Valentina Tereshkova, who blasted aboard a Vostok 6 rocket on June 16, 1963.
Two other Russian woman followed Tereshkova into orbit. After Ride returned for preparation for her second flight in 1984, not only had fellow astronaut Judith Resnik already flown on the shuttle, but Ride had a female crewmate, Kathryn Sullivan, aboard.
Ride’s death was announced on the website of Sally Ride Science, an educational organization that Ride founded in 2001.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama issued a statement about Ride’s death.
“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model,” the president said. “She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools,” The Obamas said.
Rode was born in 1951 in Los Angeles. Many times Dr. Ride talked about how as a child her father encouraged her to reach for the stars and encouraged her to reach her full potential. Dr. Ride listened to her father and obtained a doctoral degree in physics, shortly after Dr. Ride joined NASA in 1978.
Dr. Ride’s astronaut Class of 1978 was known as the Thirty-Five New Guys. The class held the distinction of being NASA’s first class in nine years and led NASA from the Apollo era through the productive space shuttle program and creation of the International Space Station.
The class included NASA’s first six female astronauts as well as the first African and Asian Americans to fly in space, Guion Bluford, Jr. and Ellison Onizuka.
Ride’s passion in life was to encourage young people, particularly girls, to participate in the world of math, science, engineering and technology.