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Sally Ride floats alongside Challenger’s middeck airlock hatch. Caption and photo courtesy of NASA

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, passed away yesterday after battling pancreatic cancer. She was 61.

“Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism – and literally changed the face of America’s space program,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in this release. “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.”

Ride made the history books when she rode to orbit on Challenger’s STS-7 mission in 1983. The very next year, she took another trip to orbit.

After the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle tragedies, Ride helped investigate the accidents. She was the only person to serve on both investigation boards.

Check out this great video of Ride talking about flying into orbit and what she saw when she looked at Earth from the space shuttle’s window. Spectacular!

RIP Sally Ride.