Sally Ride dead at 61

A sad day for the space community.

Dr. Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, has died after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

She made her historic journey into space in 1983, aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger, putting an exclamation mark on a journey that began in 1977 when the then-Ph.D student responded to an advertisement seeking applications for NASA missions. At age 32, she was also the youngest American in space at the time. She made two journeys on Challenger and went on to serve on the Rogers commission, which investigated the tragic loss of the shuttle.

After her career as an astronaut, Dr. Ride dedicated herself to inspiring young people, especially girls, to open up to science.

A statement, posted on her official website, confirmed that Dr. Ride died in La Jolla, Calif.

“Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless,” the statement said. “Sally’s historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name. She became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls.”

NASA released a statement Monday afternoon after news of Dr. Ride’s death broke:

“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.”

About John M. Guilfoil

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at Tweet @johnguilfoil.