SAN DIEGO — The first U.S. woman in space, Sally Ride — who inspired millions in the 1980s by breaking the gender barrier at NASA — died at age 61 on Monday after a long, quiet battle with pancreatic cancer.
In an obituary published by the Associated Press, as well as a CNN obituary, Ride was described as having been survived by her partner of 27 years, Tammy O’Shaughnessy.
O’Shaughnessy and Ride met around 1963, when the two 12-year-olds met through their love of tennis, according to her bio on the site maintained by her foundation, Sally Ride Science. The two maintained their friendship through Ride’s historic flight on the Challenger in 1984, and during Ride’s five-year marriage to fellow astronaut Steven Hawley, which ended in 1987.
Some LGBT activists would have liked to have seen Ride come out sooner.
“Could she have helped the cause? Maybe,” Human Rights Campaign’s Fred Sainz told USA Today. “For her not to have shared an incredibly important aspect of her life — being in a committed long-term relationship with a woman — meant many Americans did not get to see a dimension of her life that would have helped them understand us and our contributions to society.”