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.