[h=1]Sally Ride, First American Woman In Space, Is Dead[/h] In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She blasted off aboard Challenger, culminating a long journey that started in 1977 when the Ph.D candidate answered an ad seeking astronauts for NASA missions. NASA/Via APIn this June 1983 photo provided by NASA, astronaut Sally Ride, a specialist on shuttle mission STS-7, monitors control panels from the pilot's chair on the shuttle Columbia flight deck. Ride died today in La Jolla, Calif. after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, her company said on its website. According to her official biography, by the time Ride decided to apply to become an astronaut, she had already received degrees in physics and English and was on her way to a Ph.D in physics from Standford University. She was 61. According to her NASA biography, Ride went back into space in October fo 1984. She assigned to another mission, but that was scrapped after the shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986. Ride served on the Presidential Commission investigating the accident. After a stint as a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego, Ride founded Sally Ride Science. As NASA puts it, the company allowed her to "pursue her long-time passion of motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology."