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Sally Ride ’73, first American woman in space, dies at 61



Sally Ride, an astronaut and physicist with deep ties to the Stanford community, passed away today at 61 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

While at Stanford studying for her doctorate in physics, Ride came across an ad for NASA “mission specialists” in The Daily. She would eventually become the youngest American and first American woman in space.

Ride logged more than 300 hours on Space Shuttle Challenger and later served on the committee investigating the Challenger disaster in 1986. She then returned to Stanford and became a fellow at what was then the Center for International Security and Arms Control (CISAC).

In 1989, Ride became a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego and served as director of the California Space Institute.

Ride’s presence is still on campus, though, as Stanford continues to host her summer program for girls interested in science. Participants in the 2012 Sally Ride Science Camps arrive next week.

The encouragement of young women to enter math and science fields had been one of Ride’s lifelong passions and she authored or co-authored seven science books for children.

At Stanford, Ride played for the varsity tennis team and completed four degrees: concurrent bachelor’s degrees in English and physics and an M.S. and Ph.D. in physics.

“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model,” President Barack Obama said today in a statement. “She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars.”

-Edward Ngai