Sally Ride, America's first female astronaut, has passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. She was a physicist, a Space Shuttle pioneer, a teacher, and one of those people who changes the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary ways.
When I was a kid, Sally Ride was my astronaut. My parents' generation loved Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but I loved Sally Ride. With her curly brown hair and bravery, she reminded me of another astronaut I loved — Ripley, from Alien. Except Sally Ride was real. Because of women like Ride, I grew up in a world where female astronauts were not just fictional. I knew that women could go to space, and succeed there, because an ordinary scientist like Ride had done it. Because of Ride's trip offworld, I saw the future differently than my mother did when she was young.
For that, and for all the geeky, science-obsessed girls that Ride inspired with her the Sally Ride Science company's summer camps and education tools, I am grateful.
According to CNN, Ride "is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy, her mother, her sister, and other family members." Our hearts go out to them, and we know that they are as proud of Ride as we are. Thanks, Sally Ride, for being awesome.