(NBC, AP) -- Sally Ride, first american woman to fly in space has died.
She passed away monday after a 17-month long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Ride was an astrophysicist from Stanford University when she was picked to join the astronaut program in the early 1980's.
Then, in June of 1983, she got her chance as she and four other astronauts lifted off aboard the space shuttle "challenger" on june 18, 1983.
Ride's historic journey was preceded, almost 20 years to the day, by soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who became the first woman from any country to go into earth orbit in 1963.
Recently, Ride championed young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science and to pursue careers in science and engineering.
Sally Ride was 61 years old.
President Barack Obama is calling her a national hero and a "powerful role model". In a statement, the president says Ride "inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars" and "fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math" in the nation's schools.