On June 18, 1983, Dr. Sally Ride entered the history books when she became the first American woman in space. She got her break six years earlier when she came across a help-wanted ad in the newspaper announcing that NASA was interested in sending scientists to its astronaut program. (She flew on the space shuttle again in 1984.)

Ride died today after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, according to her organization, Sally Ride Science. She was 61.

Pictured here, from left to right are Shannon W. Lucid, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Judith A. Resnik, Anna L. Fisher, and Ride.

Click on for more photos of her storied career.

Updated:
Caption by:
Ride graduated from Stanford University with a degree in physics. Here she is pictured in a 1978 break with other NASA female astronaut candidates. From left: Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Anna Fisher, Kathryn Sullivan, Rhea Seddon .
Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Ride, front row, left, with her STS-7 crewmates. Front row, left to right: Ride, Commander Bob Crippen, Pilot Frederick Hauck. Back row, left to right: John Fabian, Norm Thagard
Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Ride and three of her STS-7 crewmates take a break from simulator training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Ride straps into a seat in the shuttle mission simulator in Houston on May 23, 1983.
Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Three days prior to launch, Ride bids goodbye to Houston before a T-38 jet takes her to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Ride and her team launch into space aboard Challenger at 7:33 a.m. ET on June 18, 1983. Her first space mission lasted 147 hours. Here's what she had to say about it later:

"On launch day, there was so much excitement and so much happening around us. In the crew quarters. Even on the way to the launch pad. Going up the launch pad, looking up and seeing this huge, you know, rocket that kind of sounds like an animal. You can kind of hear the gurgling, and the hissing. It sounds like it's alive.

"I spent an enormous amount of effort just trying to stay focused. I tried to block out pretty much everything that was going on around me and just put one foot in front of the other. Because it would have been way too easy to just be lost in the moment. I didn't really think about it that much at the time. Because i just wanted to get the opportunity to do that. But, I've -- I came to appreciate what an honor it was to be selected to be the first woman to get a chance to go into space."

Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Ride later described the launch as "exhilarating, terrifying and overwhelming all at the same time." According to her NASA bio, Ride was tasked with calling out "Roll program" seven seconds after launch. "I'll guarantee that those were the hardest words I ever had to get out of my mouth," she said later.
Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Pictured here with a screwdriver to clean out an air filtering system in the mid deck of the Challenger, Ride's job was to work the robotic arm. She used the arm to help put satellites into space.
Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Ride along with a crewmate show off a sleep restraint with clamps, a bungee cord and Velcro strips.
Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Ride at the control panels from the pilot's chair on the Flight Deck.
Updated:
Photo by: NASA / Caption by:
Hot Galleries

CNET's Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season for a gadget upgrade

Check out these 8 tablets you'll want to bring home for the holidays.

Hot Products