Beloved American astronaut Sally Ride has died of pancreatic cancer at 61, the Associated Press reports.
Ride became the first American woman in space when she flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, at the age of 32. She few again aboard the Challenger in 1984, logging more than 300 hours in space. While a Russian woman astronaut had preceded her, and dozens of women have flown in space since, her name remains legendary.
In addition to her achievements as an astronaut, Ride was a physicist and former professor of physics at University of California, San Diego. She was a member of the commission that investigated the accident that destroyed the Challenger in 1986, killing its entire crew, and also was involved in the investigation of the deadly 2003 Columbia shuttle accident.
Ride was a member of the president’s committee of science advisers. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut, said “The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers.”