Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died on Monday after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 61.
In 1978 Ride applied to an advertisement in the newspaper asking for astronauts to join a NASA mission. At the time, she was a Ph.D candidate in physics at Stanford University. In 1983, after working at NASA for five years, Ride took her historic first journey to space aboard the Challenger; at the time she was 32 which made her not only the first American woman to travel to space, but also the youngest American to ever take the journey. She took a second trip to space aboard the Challenger one year later.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement on Monday: "Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism – and literally changed the face of America’s space program. 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."
Ride was born in 1951 in Encino, California. In 2006, her home state honored her by inducting her into the California Hall of Fame.
In 2001, Ride founded Sally Ride Science a science education company which supports girls and boys interest in science, technology, and math.
In an interview with NASA celebrating the 25th Anniversary of her flight Ride described what she saw.
"When the space shuttle's engines cut off, and you're finally in space, in orbit, weightless ... I remember unstrapping from my seat, floating over to the window, and that's when I got my first view of Earth. Just a spectacular view, and a chance to see our planet as a planet. I could see coral reefs off the coast of Australia. A huge storm swirling in the ocean. I could see an enormous dust storm building over northern Africa.... just unbelievable sights."
Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy, as well as her mother, her sister, and other family members.