Photos: Sally Ride through the years
July 24th, 2012
02:00 PM ET

Thank you, Sally Ride

By Meg Urry, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Meg Urry is the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy and chairwoman of the Department of Physics at Yale University, where she is the director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

(CNN) - Sitting in a meeting at NASA's Science Advisory Committee on Monday afternoon, I heard the news that Sally Ride had died. She was important to everyone in that room - mostly space scientists and NASA officials. But for a handful of women like me, she was an irreplaceable leader.

Sally Ride, first American woman in space, dies

Sally Ride wasn't the first woman to go into space, or to want to do so, much less the first woman qualified to do so. She would have been the first to tell you that. But as the first U.S. woman in space, on STS-7, the seventh flight of America's new space shuttle, she was the first woman astronaut most Americans knew about. And she used that fame for good.

Learn the impact Sally Ride had on science education for girls: FULL STORY
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