Various newsers are reporting, and her company's Web site confirms, that Sally Ride died today. This sucks on a number of levels. Ride crashed several barriers during her career as an astronaut; she was the first American woman in space, and at the time of her 1983 shuttle flight, the youngest American to have travelled into space.She devoted her post-NASA career to promoting young peoples' interest in science, focusing as she should have on young women. She was a good scientist, a good astronaut, a good role model, a good Democrat. Most of all, Sally Ride was a great American.
I'm no fan of the space program in real/governmental/societal terms. I don't think it's cost-effective, especially compared to other things we could be doing with our national resources, though I recognize that cost effectiveness may be hard to measure given the implications and benefits of space science for other research, and of course I'm a wet-pantied fanboy for science fiction. All that's not relevant in light of Ride's magnitude as an icon for my generation and those that followed (she was 9 years older than me--not so old at the time of her Challenger flight as to be unhip, and certainly not so old as to be disconnected from today's young scientists).
I also find Ride's death moving because it was premature, and it was caused by pancreatic cancer, which is one of the most terrifying and despicable of cancers, one that's affected me personally. Fuck pancreatic cancer. Fuck premature death. And fuck great Americans dying early.