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Pioneering astronaut Sally Ride dies, leaves female partner to mourn

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Sally Ride, who in 1983 became the first US woman to go to space, succumbed to a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer on July 23; she leaves behind her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy.

Ride, 61, is also survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin; and her nephew, Whitney.

O'Shaughnessy and Ride came together in 1985, two years after Ride's trailblazing space voyage, but they first met when they were 12, when they played tennis together, according to the International Business Times.  

According to the news site BuzzFeed, it wasn't until the day of Ride's death that the couple's relationship was made public.

"I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them," Ride's sister, Bear Ride, told BuzzFeed. "We consider Tam a member of the family," Bear added. 

"Sally didn't use labels. Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy; it was just her nature," she said. But Bear Ride said her sister never hid her relationship with O'Shaughnessy. "They have been partners, business partners in Sally Ride Science, they've written books together," she told BuzzFeed.

A statement on the website for Sally Ride Science, a company Ride formed to provide educational resources for schools, says, "Sally's historic flight
into space captured the nation's imagination and made her a household name. She
became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to
generations of adventurous young girls. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her
high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately-inspiring young
people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become
scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and


Also speaking to BuzzFeed was Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, who said, "The fact that Sally Ride was a lesbian will further help round out Americans' understanding of the contributions of LGBT Americans to our country."

Griffin added, "For many Americans, coming out will be the hardest thing they ever do. While it's a shame that Americans weren't able to experience this aspect of Sally while alive, we should all be proud of the fact that like many LGBT Americans, she proudly served her country, had a committed and loving relationship and lived a good life."

Landing image: sallyridescience.com

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