Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Space used to be a man’s world. Then came Sally Ride, who blazed a cosmic trail for U.S. women into orbit. With a pitch perfect name out of a pop song refrain, she joined the select club of American space heroes the public knew by heart: Shepard, Glenn, Armstrong and Aldrin.
Ride, the first American woman in orbit, died Monday at her home in the San Diego community of La Jolla at age 61. The cause was pancreatic cancer, an illness she had for 17 months, according to her company, Sally Ride Science.
Ride rode into space on the space shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, when she was 32. Since then, 42 other American women flew in space.
“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
When shuttles started flying frequently with crews of six or seven, astronauts became plentiful and anonymous. Not Ride.
“People around the world still recognize her name as the first American woman in space, and she took that title seriously even after departing NASA,” Eileen Collins, the first female space shuttle commander, said in a statement. “She never sought media attention for herself, but rather focused on doing her normally outstanding job.”