Astronaut Sally Ride’s battle with cancer ended today (July 23). The California physicist and first U.S. woman to fly in space was 61.
Ride was part of the first astronaut class to include woman in 1978. (Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to fly in space aboard Vostok 6 in June 1963.) When Ride broke through the macho, test pilot barrier to fly on a space shuttle crew in June 1983, President Ronald Reagan told her that “sometimes the best man for the job is a woman.”
Ride later said the reality of what was happening on her first shuttle flight didn’t hit her until the hatch was closed and she awaited the launch. “I realized, oh my God, this is really going to happen.” Ride would fly twice on the shuttle. She also performed the grim tasks of helping to investigate two shuttle accidents.
Shuttle mission specialist Sally Ride aboard Shuttle Challenger in 1983
NASA released the following statement late today from Ride’s former husband and fellow astronaut, Steve Hawley:
"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.
“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."
The first humans to reach Mars may have already been born. Thanks to Sally Ride, some of them will be women. Click here
to view a video of Sally Ride’s career. Here's a link to Sally Ride Science