Washington: After a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, Sally Ride, the first US female astronaut, died Monday in California. She was 61, reported Xinhua.
"Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, commitment and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless," read a statement on the website of Sally Ride Science, a company Ride launched to help teach students - particularly young women and girls - about science, math and technology.
Ride, who joined US space agency NASA in 1978, became in 1983 the first American woman in space as a crew member on Space Shuttle Challenger. She was also the youngest American space traveller at the time.
The first woman in space was Soviet astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, who orbited the earth 48 times in 1963.
US President Barack Obama called Ride "a national hero and a powerful role model" in a statement after her death.
"She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come."
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Ride "broke barriers with grace and professionalism - and literally changed the face of America's space program".
"The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. 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," he said in a statement.