Sally Ride, the first US woman to journey into space, has died on Monday at the age of 61 after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, her foundation announced.
Ride first launched into space in 1983 aboard the Challenger shuttle, on the seventh mission of US space shuttle program.
US President Barack Obama called her a “national hero and a powerful role model” who “inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars.”
“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,” he added, in a statement offering condolences to Ride’s family and friends.
Ride, born May 26, 1951, in California, earned degrees in physics and English from Stanford University.
She applied to be an astronaut at US space agency NASA in 1977, after seeing an ad in her university’s student newspaper. It was the first time the space agency had allowed applications from civilians — or from women.
Ride was one of 35 people, including just six women, chosen from a pool of 8,000 applicants.
She flew in two space missions, logging nearly 350 hours in space. However, her third planned mission was grounded in 1986, after the Challenger explosion that killed all seven crew members on another flight.
Ride served on the commission to investigate the accident, and later was assigned to NASA headquarters. She retired from the agency in 1987