Her career started humbly enough in 1977, when Sally Ride responded to a newspaper advertisement looking for astronauts interested in doing missions for NASA, according to National Public Radio.
But she will be forever remembered as the pride of a generation of women, one of the bold strivers whose achievements were a tangible symbol of the accomplishments of the feminists' movement that had just brought about a sea change for women's rights.
Sally Ride died in La Jolla, California, on Monday after succumbing to pancreatic cancer, against which she had fought a 17-month battle, according to the website of Sally Ride Science, her prominent scientific foundation.
Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, commitment, and love, a statement on Sally Ride Science's website reads. 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.
Ride received degrees in both English and physics and was pursuing her doctorate in physics at Stanford University -- which she did end up receiving -- when she decided to pursue a career as an astronaut, according to an official biography of her on the Sally Ride Science website, which stated that she died peacefully.
Her contributions to science were great, as described on the Sally Ride Science website's official biography of her life:
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, the bio reads. 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.
She made history when she blasted into space on the shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983. On that day she became the first American woman in space.
Sally Ride retired from NASA in 1987, and eventually went on to found Sally Ride Science, where she nurtured young students and encouraged them to pursue their passions in science, tech, engineering and math. A winner of many awards, Sally Ride was most recently honored earlier this year with the National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award.
A native-born Californian, Sally Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy; her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin; and her nephew, Whitney.
Asked about the famous flight in which she broke the space gender barrier, Sally Ride had the following words to say -- words that can help bring some solace and joy to those who read it on this sad day:
The thing that I'll remember most about the flight is that it was fun, said Sally. In fact, I'm sure it was the most fun I'll ever have in my life.
Those who are so inclined can click here to donate to the Sally Ride Pancreatic Cancer Initiative