| Sad news today: Sally Ride, who became the first American woman to go into space in 1983, has died of pancreatic cancer. Her official biography on her own website and on the NASA site describe her early training, two flights on the space shuttle, and later career. Since the 1980s, she worked as a physics professor, presidential science adviser, children's author, and owner of a business promoting science education and projects. The New York Times posted a longer obituary.
A member of the National Women's Hall of Fame, Ride inspired many women to pursue careers in science. Iowa native Peggy Whitson, who has logged more days in space and more hours in spacewalks than any other woman, was the keynote speaker at the 2008 Sally Ride Science Festival, established in 2006 to encourage middle school girls to study science, technology, engineering, or math.
Although I never dreamed of becoming an astronaut, I was excited to see a woman join a space shuttle crew, just like every girl I knew. Any memories about Sally Ride's impact are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: A lot of people on Twitter have commented that due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Ride's partner of 27 years will not get the same benefits as other astronauts' widows.