Sally Ride aboard the space shuttle

Dr. Sally Ride who broke new ground as the first American woman and the first lesbian in space has died from pancreatic cancer.

Ride studied physics at Stanford University before joining NASA in 1978. She first went to space in 1983 on the space shuttle Challenger, becoming America’s first woman in space.

At the age of 32 she was also the youngest American to go into space.

Ride took a second and final trip on the Challenger a year later before leaving Nasa in 1987 for a position at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control.

She passed away at the age of 61 on Monday after a 17 month battle with cancer.

Ride is survived by her female partner of 27 years, Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy. At the time of her trips into space, Ride was married to male NASA astronaut Steve Hawley, whom she divorced in 1987.

She became romantically involved with O’Shaugnessy, a childhood friend, in 1985. The news that Ride had been in a lesbian relationship was only revealed in her obituary this week and confirmed by her sister.

“As the first American woman to travel into space, Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model,” said President Obama after her death.

“She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come.”

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