UK & World News
First American Woman In Space Dies At 61
Sally Ride, the first US woman to fly in space, has died after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Dr Ride, 61, was first launched into space in 1983 aboard Challenger, on the seventh mission of the US space shuttle programme.
US President Barack Obama called her a "national hero and a powerful role model", and a woman who "inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars".
"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," Mr Obama said, offering condolences to Dr Ride's family and friends.
Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said Dr Ride "literally changed the face of America's space programme" and that "the nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers, and explorers".
In an interview marking the 25th anniversary of the mission, Dr Ride said she was so dazzled that she only later "came to appreciate what an honour it was to be selected to be the first (US woman) to get a chance to go into space".
Dr Ride, born on May 26, 1951, in Encino, southern California, earned degrees in physics and English from Stanford University.
She applied to be an astronaut at Nasa in 1977, after seeing an advert in her university's student newspaper.
It was the first time the space agency had allowed applications from civilians - or from women.
Dr Ride was one of 35 people, including just six women, chosen from a pool of 8,000 applicants.
She flew in two space missions, logging nearly 350 hours in space.
However, her third planned mission was grounded in 1986, after the tragic Challenger explosion that killed all seven crew members.
Dr Ride served on the commission to investigate the accident, and later was assigned to Nasa headquarters. She retired from Nasa in 1987.
On her foundation's website, Ride said of her historic foray into space: "The thing I'll remember most about the flight is that it was fun."