Dr. Sally Ride first made history in 1983 as a crewmember on the space shuttle Challenger, breaking the gender barrier for U.S. spaceflight. Before her recent death, Ride was noted as the first woman in space. Not only was she pioneer in her field, she is also now noted as the first lesbian in outer space.
Ride, 61, died today after a 17-month battle against pancreatic cancer, her company (Sally Ride Science, the educational venture she founded after leaving NASA, aimed at promoting math and science for girls) confirmed.
The announcement of Ride’s death noted that she is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy. Before her relationship, she was married to fellow astronaut Steven Hawley in 1982, but they divorced in 1987 with no children.
“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars,” President Obama said in a statement.
Reporters note that she was a very private person despite her notoriety; news of Ride’s death after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer surprised many in the space community.
“The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, said in a statement. “Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism — and literally changed the face of America’s space program.”
Read more at USA Today.