Former Astronaut Sally Ride Left a Legacy of Inspiration

July 23, 2012, 3:35 p.m.

The first Amer­ic­an wo­man in space, Sally Ride, died on Ju­ly 23 of can­cer in La Jolla, Cal­if. She was 61.

“As the first Amer­ic­an wo­man to travel in­to space, Sally was a na­tion­al hero and a power­ful role mod­el,” Pres­id­ent Obama said in a state­ment. “Sally’s life showed us that there are no lim­its to what we can achieve, and I have no doubt that her leg­acy will en­dure for years to come.”

Ride, who joined NASA’s 1978 as­tro­naut class, flew on the space shuttle Chal­lenger on the sev­enth shuttle mis­sion in 1983. A year later, she flew again on an­oth­er mis­sion. After leav­ing NASA in 1987, she joined the fac­ulty of the Uni­versity of Cali­for­nia (San Diego). In 2001, she foun­ded her own com­pany, Sally Ride Sci­ence, “to pur­sue her long­time pas­sion of mo­tiv­at­ing girls and young wo­men to pur­sue ca­reers in sci­ence, math, and tech­no­logy,” ac­cord­ing to NASA.

She was men­tioned as a pos­sible can­did­ate to head NASA after Bill Clin­ton won his first pres­id­en­tial elec­tion in 1992, ac­cord­ing to a March 1993 Hot­line art­icle. “Fre­quently men­tioned as a pos­sible can­did­ate to head NASA, [Ride] ‘has giv­en the White House a fifth, and ap­par­ently fi­nal, no,’ ” the art­icle’s au­thor wrote, quot­ing a Wash­ing­ton Post art­icle.

“Sally Ride broke bar­ri­ers with grace and pro­fes­sion­al­ism—and lit­er­ally changed the face of Amer­ica’s space pro­gram,” said NASA Ad­min­is­trat­or Charles Bolden in a state­ment. “The na­tion has lost one of its finest lead­ers, teach­ers, and ex­plorers.”

Be­low are some pho­tos from Ride’s ca­reer in space and after.