Astronaut Sally Ride dead at 61

sally-ride-nasa.jpgSally Ride, the first American woman in space, is dead at 61 after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, according to a statement on the website of Ride's company.

In 1983, Ride -- a physicist -- was selected as a crew member of the shuttle Challenger and, once she'd blasted into space, became a household name. She returned to space in 1984 and was scheduled for a third mission in 1986, but it was abandoned after the Challenger explosion in 1986.

Ride took part in the Presidential Commission investigating the disaster. She then worked as a professor of Physics at University of California San Diego and founded Sally Ride Science, a company devoted to pursuing "her long-time passion of motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology."

PICTURES: Space shuttle Challenger through the years

The Los Angeles native also wrote five science books for children and was a long-time member of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Research Council's Space Studies Board. She was also inducted into both the National Women's Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, according to a NASA bio.

"Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love," reads the statement on her company's webstie. "Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless."


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