Astronaut Sally Ride Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

To coincide with the tribute to U.S. Astronaut Sally Ride's life that occured at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in D.C. last night, President Obama has awarded Ride — the first American woman to ever make the voyage into space — with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The honor was bestowed posthumously as Ride passed away last summer at the age of 61 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

In a statement released Monday evening, the president announced:

“We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women. Sally inspired us to reach for the stars, and she advocated for a greater focus on the science, technology, engineering and math that would help us get there. Sally showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve.”

In 1983, Ride made history as the first American woman (and the third woman ever) to deploy into space when she and her fellow crew mates launched the Challenger space shuttle into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center. She made the journey into space again as a mission specialist in 1984 and served on the Presidential Commission who investigated the tragic Challenger disaster in 1986.

After retiring from NASA in 1987, Ride went on to teach physics at the University of California, San Diego. She also founded the company Sally Ride Science, which, among other things, seeks to educate girls about science and mathematics.

In 2012, Ride made additional waves when she announced in her own co-written obituary that she was survived by her partner of 27-years Tam O'Shaughnessy, making Ride the only openly gay astronaut to have made the voyage into outer space to date.

As tribute to her extensive career and contributions to space exploration, NASA has announced a new new agency internship program in her name. They will also be renaming a camera aboard the space station the Sally Ride EarthKAM.

Sally Ride to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom [Florida Today]

Image via AP.