Sally Ride Sally Ride

Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died Monday after battling pancreatic cancer, her company said on its website. She was 61.

"Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, commitment, and love," her company said in a statement posted on her website. "Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless."

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At the age of 32, Ride rode to orbit aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983 to become America's first woman to fly in space. A physicist, Ride helped develop the shuttle's robotic arm. After joining NASA in 1978, Ride left nine years later and worked at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control. She was also a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego and was the director of the California Space Institute.

"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism — and literally changed the face of America's space program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "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."

Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy, her mother and her sister.