Dr. Sally Ride, an American physicist and former NASA astronaut, has died of pancreatic cancer. She joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 became the first American woman to travel into space. From a statement on her website:
Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 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 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.
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.
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.
From a post about Dr. Ride's legacy by Valerie Neal, space history curator of the National Air and Space Museum, published back in 2010:
Sally Ride made history as the first U.S. woman in space, but the feat is more nuanced. She and the other five women who were first selected to be shuttle astronauts each made history, through grit and determination and some dreaming, to be ready for the opportunity of spaceflight. They entered science and engineering in the 1960s as these fields began to open up to women. They came of age as the civil rights, equal rights, and women's movements stimulated changes in American society and opened new career possibilities. They were poised to step through the door opened by NASA's affirmative action policy and its aggressive recruitment of women and minorities for the astronaut corps.
Accomplished American women have flown in space since 1983, so it no longer seems newsworthy; it's just natural. That is the history that flowed from Sally Ride's shuttle mission.
In a space agency filled with trailblazers, Sally K. Ride was a pioneer of a different sort. The soft-spoken California physicist broke the gender barrier 29 years ago when she rode to orbit aboard space shuttle Challenger to become America's first woman in space.
"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism – and literally changed the face of America's space program," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "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."
"Sally was a personal and professional role model to me and thousands of women around the world," said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. "Her spirit and determination will continue to be an inspiration for women everywhere."
From Dr. Ride's website:
In lieu of flowers, you may wish to make a gift in memory of Sally to the Sally Ride Pancreatic Cancer Initiative (Fund 4191) at UCSD.
(Thanks, Isabel Lara and Miles O'Brien)