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Sally Ride: The celebrity-shy, first US woman in space (+video)

Sally Ride was very private, but she inspired a generation of female scientists with her historic shuttle flight in 1983. Sally Ride, a physicist, proved that women could be equal partners with men in space.

Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut in space, died at the age of 61 of cancer in her home in California. Seth Doane takes a look back at her remarkable life and legacy.
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Sally Ride loved everything about space. What she didn't like was being the first American woman to experience it.

It took years — if not decades — for her to get comfortable with her galactic status.

What drew her out was her San Diego-based education company, Sally Ride Science, which promotes science and math careers for girls and young women. She was determined to give back and she did, a thousand times over before her death on Monday at age 61.

The Soviet Union had been lofting female cosmonauts into orbit going back to the flight of Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, who orbited the Earth for almost three days.

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Ride burst onto the public stage 20 years later when NASA chose her to be the nation's first woman in space.

With her catchy space-flying name and rock-solid science credentials, Ride inspired females the world over with her historic shuttle flight in 1983, five years after she and five other women gained entry to NASA's exclusively male astronaut club.

Some of those girls who looked up to Ride, way back when, went on to become astronauts themselves. Ride, a physicist, proved that women could be equal partners in space and that they, too, could aspire to such heights.

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