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Iconic Astronaut Sally Ride passes away at 61

Groundbreaking Astronaut Sally Ride has died after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 61 years old.

In a statement from her publicist, Ride “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.”

Ride was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.

Her historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name and 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.

In addition to Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, Sally is survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science; and many friends and colleagues around the country.

Sally was born on May 26, 1951, in Encino, California, and she spent her childhood there. As a young girl, Sally was fascinated by science. She credited her parents with encouraging her interests. Sally grew up playing with a chemistry set and a telescope. She also grew up playing sports. She competed in national junior tennis tournaments and was good enough to win a tennis scholarship to Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles.

In 1977, Sally already had degrees in physics and English from Stanford University and was about to finish her Ph.D. in physics when she saw an ad in the Stanford student newspaper saying that NASA was looking for astronauts. Up until then, astronauts had been military test pilots—and they all had been male. But now NASA was looking for scientists and engineers, and was allowing women to apply. Sally immediately sent in her application—along with 8,000 other people. From that group, 35 new astronauts, including six women, were chosen to join the astronaut corps. NASA selected Sally as an astronaut candidate in January 1978.

Sally’s astronaut training included parachute jumping, water survival, weightlessness, radio communications, and navigation. She enjoyed flight training so much that flying became one of her hobbies. During the second and third flights of the space shuttle Columbia, she worked on the ground as a communications officer, relaying messages from mission control to the shuttle crews. She was part of the team that developed the robot arm used by shuttle crews to deploy and retrieve satellites.

In August 1979, after a yearlong training and evaluation period, Sally became eligible for assignment as an astronaut on a space shuttle flight crew. She was selected as a mission specialist for mission STS-7 aboard the shuttle Challenger. When Challenger blasted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on June 18, 1983, Sally soared into history as the first American woman in space.

Accompanying Sally aboard Challenger were Captain Robert L. Crippen, the spacecraft commander; Captain Fredrick H. Hauck, the pilot; and fellow mission specialists Colonel John M. Fabian and Dr. Norman E. Thagard. This was the second flight for the orbiter Challenger and the first mission with a five-person crew. During the mission, the crew deployed satellites for Canada (ANIK C-2) and Indonesia (PALAPA B-1); operated the Canadian-built robot arm to perform the first deployment and retrieval with the Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS-01); conducted the first formation flying of the shuttle with a free-flying satellite (SPAS-01); carried and operated the first U.S./German cooperative materials science payload (OSTA-2); and operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES) and the Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR) experiments. The crew also activated seven Getaway Specials—small experiments sent into space by private individuals or groups. The mission lasted 147 hours before Challenger landed on a lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 24.

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    Iconic Astronaut Sally Ride passes away at 61 | Hews Media Group-Community News