Sally Ride, 1st US Woman in Space, Dead at Age 61 Ride went into space on the Challenger nearly 30 years ago By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff Posted Jul 23, 2012 4:57 PM CDT 25 comments Comments In this Aug. 29, 1983, file photo, astronaut Sally Ride poses at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Caneveral, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Russell, File) (Newser) – Sally Ride, America's first woman space traveler, died today after fighting pancreatic cancer for 17 months, the New York Times reports. She was 61. Ride made history by flying on Challenger shuttles in 1983 and 1984, and being America's youngest person in orbit. She was also the only expert who served on both panels probing the fatal 1986 Challenger explosion and the 2003 Columbia Crash. But she encountered prejudice along the way—like questions about how spaceflight would affect her reproductive organs. "It’s too bad this is such a big deal," she once said. "It’s too bad our society isn’t further along." After retiring in 1989, she taught physics at UC San Diego and wrote science books for children. She also started a company, Sally Ride for Science, to "make science and engineering cool again" for school children. But otherwise she resisted the spotlight, turning down most offers for movies, memoirs, and product endorsements. She is survived by her mother, her sister, and her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy.