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Monday, July 23, 2012 - 1:30pm

Sally Ride, First American Woman In Space, Is Dead

Updated: 2 years ago.
Astronaut Sally K. Ride, STS-7 mission specialist, communicates with ground controllers from the mid-deck of the earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger in June 1983.

In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She blasted off aboard Challenger, culminating a long journey that started in 1977 when the Ph.D candidate answered an ad seeking astronauts for NASA missions.

Ride died today in La Jolla, Calif. after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, her company said on its website.

According to her official biography, by the time Ride decided to apply to become an astronaut, she had already received degrees in physics and English and was on her way to a Ph.D in physics from Standford University.

She was 61.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.