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Sally Ride, First US Female Astronaut, Dead at 61 [VIDEO]

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Sally Ride died today after a 17 month battle with pancreatic cancer, she was 61-years-old.  Ride was the first U.S. female astronaut in space on the shuttle Challenger in 1983.

Sally Ride made two flights on Challenger, and was going to do a third mission, but it was scratched after the Challenger exploded on take off in 1986.  Ride assisted with the investigation, and she helped investigate the Columbia explosion, making her the only person to serve on both commissions.

Many did not know that Sally Ride was gay, and it wasn’t really made public until now.  She is survived by her partner of 27 years Tam O’Shaughnessy.  She led a really private life, and never really hid her relationship, but never really “came out” either. (She’s been fighting cancer for 17 months and kept a pretty good secret of that too.)

Here is the official statement posted at sallyridescience.com,

Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. 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.

Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.

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. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately—inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.

In addition to Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, Sally is survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science; and many friends and colleagues around the country.

In discussing the fact that she kept her romantic life so secret, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told Buzzfeed.com.

For many Americans, coming out will be the hardest thing they ever do. While it’s a shame that Americans were not able to experience this aspect of Sally while alive, we should all be proud of the fact that like many LGBT Americans, she proudly served her country, had a committed and loving relationship, and lived a good life.”

(Regardless of her sexual preferences, or anything else in her personal life really… Sally Ride was a true American Hero, and our condolences to Tam, and the rest of her family and friends.)

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