Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space, has died, NASA is reporting. The California physicist broke the gender barrier 29 years ago when she joined four other astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger in the historic STS-7 flight in 1983.
Ride completed two space missions for NASA and contributed to research and the space program even after hanging up her space suit in 1989. She went on to an award-winning academic career at the University of California — San Diego. She is the only person who worked on investigation teams of both space shuttle accidents.
Ride was also passionate about getting girls and women interested in science generally and space research specifically. In 2001, she started her own company, Sally Ride Science, to do just that.
According to NASA, which released news of her death, Ride joined NASA in 1978, a member of the first astronaut class to include women. From NASA:
She and five other women, along with 29 men, were selected out of 8,000 applicants. The class became known as the “Thirty-Five New Guys” and reported to the Johnson Space Center the next summer to begin training. Ride trained for five years before she and three of her classmates were assigned to STS-7. The six-day mission deployed two communications satellites and performed a number of science experiments.
Ride’s contributions to the space program are vast. She opened the door for other women in science and space.
Ride died after a 17-month battle against pancreatic cancer.