Sally Ride first US woman in space dies aged 61 image

Sally Ride, the first US woman to travel into space, died on Monday after a 17-month bout with cancer. She was 61.

Ms. Ride made history on June 18, 1983, when she orbited the Earth aboard the space shuttle Challenger. At 32 years and 23 days old, she was the youngest American to go into space.

Once an aspiring tennis player, she went on to earn no fewer than four university degrees including a doctorate in physics.

“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars,” President Obama said in a statement.

Members of Congress, fellow astronauts and close friends offered tributes too.

The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, said in a statement. “Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism — and literally changed the face of America’s space program.”