The National Space Society (NSS) mourns the death of Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut and, at the time of her first flight, the youngest as well. Ride passed away on Monday, July 23 after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

“Sally Ride was an extraordinary woman who spent almost her entire life as a role model to women and girls desiring to pursue careers in space and other STEM fields,” said Paul E. Damphousse, Executive Director of NSS. “She was an inspiration to many of us, men and women alike, desiring to open up the space frontier for exploration and settlement and her dedication and enthusiasm will be sorely missed by the entire space community.”

Ms. Ride was selected as one of the first five women in the astronaut corps in 1978 and her historic first flight into space took place on June 18, 1983 on board Challenger for the STS-7 mission, which deployed two communications satellites and conducted several scientific experiments. She returned to space as a member of STS-41G in 1984. A third mission for which she had been selected was cancelled after the Challenger accident in 1986. Sally Ride was the only person who served on the investigative commissions for both the Challenger and Columbia accidents.

“I remembered watching her launch with pride, and I had read and remembered her work on the Challenger commission when I met her,” said NSS Board of Governors member and CEO of XCOR Aerospace, Jeff Greason. “It was a privilege to work with her on the Augustine Committee. Her passion for education was clear and it was the subject she would turn to whenever we had a free moment. I am surprised and saddened to hear of her death.”

After a short tenure at NASA Headquarters as a special assistant to the NASA administrator for long-range and strategic planning, Ms. Ride became a highly respected physics professor at the University of California in San Diego in 1989. She founded Sally Ride Science in 2001, to pursue her long-time passion of motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology.

Ride was soft-spoken and not a fan of being in the limelight, although she executed her role as the first American female astronaut with grace and style. She also faced her illness in the same way, sharing it with few and spending her last days peacefully at home. We hope she is now soaring freely among the stars….

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