Dr. Sally Ride, who rocketed to fame in 1983 as the first American woman in space, has died of pancreatic cancer. The former NASA astronaut was also a physicist, and — via her non-profit organization Sally Ride Science — worked tirelessly to inspire girls and young women to pursue careers in science.
As opposed to a few famous astronauts who shun the public spotlight after gaining acclaim, Ride embraced her celebrity and channeled that positive energy to a constructive end. She actively chose to become a very visible role model. According to a statement about Sally Ride’s life and work on her website:
[She] died peacefully… after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.
Sally’s historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name. She became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls.
After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately—inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.
At the time of her historic flight, Ride was also the youngest American to enter space (she was 32). She flew into space again in 1984 (both missions were aboard the Challenger). After that shuttle tragically exploded in 1986, Ride served on the commission to investigate the accident. She also was on the panel for the Columbia shuttle accident in 2003. Of her service to the nation, President Barack Obama said:
“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars.”
Dr. Ride is survived by Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years; as well as her mother, her sister, and a niece and nephew. The staff of FutureDude extends it sympathies to her family and many friends and colleagues. Thank you, Sally!
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