America's First Female Astronaut, Sally Ride, Dies at Age 61

By Maureen Mespell
By Scott Sarvay

July 23, 2012 Updated Jul 24, 2012 at 9:26 AM EDT

San Diego, CA (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Sally Ride, the first American woman in space has died.

61-year-old Ride was battling pancreatic cancer.

Ride blasted off into space on June, 18, 1983, she not only boldly went where no other American woman had gone before, and she also became an inspiration to generations of young girls looking to reach for the stars.

"I guess that I was maybe more excited about getting a chance to fly early than I was about getting to be the first woman,” said Ride.

Ride was a PHD student at Stanford when she saw a help-wanted ad in the college newspaper that would change her life forever.

The ad said NASA was looking for scientists to work on a new project. It also happened to be the same year NASA started accepting women into its astronaut training program.

Of the 8,000 applicants, 35 were chosen. 6 were women and Ride was the one selected to go into space on the Space Shuttle Challenger.

"It's a real experience and the experience of a lifetime to be able to fly in space and fly aboard the space shuttle and I have to admit that I'm more excited about that opportunity than I about being, as you say, a footnote in history."

At 31, she was also the youngest American in space. She ultimately took the trip twice on the Challenger in back to back years. Her third flight was canceled after the disaster in 1986, but she went on to inspire young women to consider careers in science.

Her example alone encouraged women everywhere to shoot for the moon.

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