Sally Ride, who became the first American woman astronaut to go into space, has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 61.
The New York Times says, Ride answered a newspaper ad asking for applications from people who wanted to become an astronaut. That was in 1978, and just 5 years later, on June 18, 1983, she made history becoming the first American woman to go into space on board the Shuttle Challenger, and at 32 she was also the youngest American to make the journey into space. She flew on one more mission in 1984. Nasa has posted a video on YouTube of Ride remembering her shuttle flight, 50 years later.
She told The New York Times back in 1982, “The women’s movement had already paved the way, I think, for my coming.” But it wasn't easy. She was faced with a barrage of questions focused on her sex; would space affect her ability to have children? did she plan to have children? would she wear a bra or makeup in space? did she cry on the job? On “The Tonight Show,” Johnny Carson joked that the shuttle flight would be delayed because Dr. Ride had to find a purse to match her shoes. But she endured it all and made it into the record books.
Ride helped in the development of a robotic arm for the space shuttle and was chosen for the 1983 mission because of her experience with it. She was part of the 5 member crew that spent six days in space and used the robotic arm to deploy and retrieve a satellite. The NY Times reports that the day after the Shuttle returned to earth, feminist and editor of Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem, said, “Millions of little girls are going to sit by their television sets and see they can be astronauts, heroes, explorers and scientists.”
The LA Times obituary says Ride died Monday at her home in La Jolla, California after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 61. Her website, SallyRideScience, posted about her death saying, "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."
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issued a statement saying, "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."