Sally Ride, the first American woman in space and former UC San Diego physics professor, will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama, it was announced today. Ride died in La Jolla last July 23 following a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 61.
“We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women,” Obama said. “Sally inspired us to reach for the stars, and she advocated for a greater focus on the science, technology, engineering and math that would help us get there. Sally showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I look forward to welcoming her family to the White House as we celebrate her life and legacy.”
Ride became the first American woman to travel in space on June 18, 1983, while aboard the space shuttle Challenger. She flew aboard the shuttle Challenger twice, and was assigned to a third when the program was placed on hold after Challenger exploded shortly after launch in January 1986.Ride served on the presidential commission that investigated the explosion.
She left NASA in 1987, and joined the faculty at UCSD as a professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute two years later. She founded San Diego-based Sally Ride Science in 2001 to encourage youngsters to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Ride’s partner, mother and sister were notified last week that she would be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to the U.S. space program and education system, according to the White House.
The remaining honorees will be announced over the coming weeks, and the awards will be presented at the White House later this year.