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Remembering Sally Ride: A pioneer who changed everything

July 23, 2012|By Rene Lynch

Sally Ride's death today at age 61 from pancreatic cancer is being mourned around the world. If you believe the headlines, it's because Ride was the first American woman to fly in space.

But that's not Ride's biggest accomplishment. Her biggest accomplishment was teaching girls and women that the sky, literally, is the limit.

It may be hard for today's youth to imagine, but there was a time when many couldn't fathom women as pilots, much less astronauts.

When Ride became the first American woman to fly in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983, it shattered glass ceilings for millions of girls and women, helping redefine the role of the fairer sex.

On Monday, women of a certain age did their best to try to put Ride's cultural significance into context -- and to do so in 140 characters.

Perhaps Maria Shriver, California's former first lady, put it best. Shriver, who inducted Ride into the California Hall of Fame in 2006, tweeted Monday:

"Every time a woman dreams of conquering the next frontier, she will stand on Sally Ride's shoulders."

The Los Angeles Times' obituary editor, Claire Noland, reports that Ride died Monday at her home in La Jolla after battling pancreatic cancer. In addition to being an astronaut, Ride was a NASA advisor, taught at UC San Diego and launched a campaign to encourage kids -- girls, especially -- to embrace science.

She was chosen to be an astronaut in the late 1970s, beating out nearly 8,000 other candidates for the job.

"The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement Monday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally's family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly."

Here's the first of many Los Angeles Times stories today about Ride and her role in  U.S. culture and the nation's space program. And here's a look at how she was being remembered Monday on Facebook and Twitter.

Remembering Sally Ride

Storified by Nation Now · Mon, Jul 23 2012 16:25:45

as much as I loved dancing and this was clearly what I wanted to do, thanks to Sally Ride I wanted to go into space.. Rest in Peace, Sally Ride, you are truly among the stars now..Rebecca Rosales CastilloRest in peace, Astronaut Sally Ride. Thank you for your bravery and inspiration.Jane SharpR.I.P. Sally Ride. You made women - and ultimately, all Americans - proud.MaryJo KingRIP Sally Ride. She was an inspiration to all, particularly young women and girls who, through her, believed they could shoot for the stars.Lolly BuseyR.I.P. SALLY RIDE!! She taking her final ride in space.Chanda HenrySally opened the door to little girls dreams... she showed us that we could dream Big & do Big things!..including if our dream was to be an ASTRONAUT! Whenever I hear "Mustang Sally" it will remind me of the path you paved... "Ride Sally Ride"Debi N Eason CostSally Ride: a real role model for women and dreamers. #RipSallyRideMarcieOh ride, Sally, ride. You made the girls dream of bigger things. Thank you.SarahAs a girl growing up in the 80's we were told we could be anything...like Sally Ride! Sad to hear if her passing today. #NASA #sadfaceKatieAs the first woman in space, Sally Ride's life was marked by breaking barriers with courage and class. An inspiration for all #RIP #LegendNancy PelosiFor those of us coming of age in the early 80s, you showed us a woman truly could do anything. RIP Sally Ride.Cheryl HarrisDid anyone have a more apt surname than Sally Ride? RIP Sally! http://fb.me/1GCBHEgTiGreg EnoRide, Sally, Ride ¿ RT @cbsnews: Sally Ride, pioneering astronaut, dead at 61. STORY: http://cbsn.ws/P5aI2IWalt SorgRip Sally Ride. Thank you for breaking another glass ceiling. #NasaKate RickelR.I.P. Ms. Sally Ride, you inspired many in sciences, your star will shine brightly...Isaiah V. McCommons

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+ and Twitter. Email: rene.lynch@latimes.com

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