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Sally Ride, first American woman to fly in space, dies at 61

Sally Ride in 1983.

Sally Ride, who became the first American woman to fly in space when she rode in the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, has died. She was 61.

Ride died Monday at her home in La Jolla after battling pancreatic cancer, said her mother, Joyce Ride of Claremont.

PHOTOS: Notable deaths of 2012

Besides serving as an astronaut, Ride was a NASA advisor who helped study the Challenger and Columbia disasters. She also taught at UC San Diego and began a website, sallyridescience.com.

A Los Angeles native, Ride was a Stanford University graduate. She was one of 35 candidates pulled from a pool of 8,000 applicants chosen to be among the next astronauts in the late 1970s.

[Updated at 3:15 p.m.: NASA officials released statements on Ride's death:

"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism – and literally changed the face of America’s space program," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "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."

“Sally was a personal and professional role model to me and thousands of women around the world,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. “Her spirit and determination will continue to be an inspiration for women everywhere.”]

More later at latimes.com.

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-- Claire Noland

Photo: Sally Ride in 1983. Credit: AFP / NASA

 
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