Sally Ride Dead; First American Woman in Space Was 61
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Space used to be a man's world. Then came Sally Ride, who blazed a cosmic trail into orbit for U.S. women. With a pitch perfect name out of a pop song refrain, she joined the select club of American space heroes the public knew by heart: Shepard, Glenn, Armstrong and Aldrin.
Ride, the first American woman in orbit, died Monday at her home in the San Diego community of La Jolla at age 61 of pancreatic cancer, according to her company, Sally Ride Science.
Ride flew into space on the space shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, when she was 32. Since then, 42 other American women followed her into space.
"Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars," President Barack Obama said in a statement.
When shuttles started flying frequently with crews of six or seven, astronauts became plentiful and anonymous. Not Ride.
"People around the world still recognize her name as the first American woman in space, and she took that title seriously even after departing NASA," Eileen Collins, the first female space shuttle commander, said in a statement. "She never sought media attention for herself, but rather focused on doing her normally outstanding job."
When Ride first launched into space, feminist icons such as Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda were at Kennedy Space Center and many wore T-shirts alluding to the pop song with the refrain of the same name: "Ride, Sally Ride."
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut, said Ride "broke barriers with grace and professionalism — and literally changed the face of America's space program."