UPDATE BY MSNBC NEWS: Sally Ride, first American woman in space, a lesbian, dies of cancerDr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died today. And it turns out she was even more of a pioneer than most of us realized. She will also be remembered as the first lesbian astronaut.
Ride, 61, died today after a 17-month battle against pancreatic cancer, her company (Sally Ride Science, the educational venture she founded after leaving NASA, aimed at promoting math and science for girls) confirmed.
The announcement of Ride's death noted that she is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy. O'Shaughnessy is the COO and Executive Vice President of Sally Ride Science and a Professor Emerita of School Psychology at San Diego State University.
Ride made history in 1983 as a crew member on the space shuttle Challenger, breaking the gender barrier for U.S. spaceflight.
She was married to fellow astronaut Steven Hawley in 1982, but they divorced in 1987 with no children.
Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, has died of cancer at age 61.
Update at 5:37 p.m. ET: Here's the full statement from Sally Ride Science, the San Diego company she developed to provide classroom materials, programs and professional help for K-12 teachers:
Sally Ride died peacefully July 23, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, commitment, 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.