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Barack Obama Honors Sally Ride's Legacy with Presidential Honor of Freedom

May 22, 2013 11:43 AM EDT

President Barack Obama brought attention to the "immeasurable" accomplishments of Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel into space, by posthumously bestowing upon her the nation’s highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Known by her peers as the soft-spoken physicist from Los Angeles, according to a press release from NASA, Ride earned four degrees from Stanford University where she also played varsity tennis.

In all, she completed two trips into orbit aboard the space shuttle Challenger during her time working for NASA.

About her experience of being called to go to space, Ride said she was “so dazzled” to be on the crew for the upcoming mission that she remembered very little of what else was told her that day.

After her multiple missions, Ride went on to an award-winning academic career at the University of California, San Diego.

Furthermore, she holds the distinction as the only person to serve as a member of both investigation boards following NASA’s two space shuttle accidents.

In 2001, Ride founded her own company, Sally Ride Science, in order to better pursue her life-long goal of motivating other women to pursue careers in science, math and technology.

Before her death at age 61, Ride received several honors and awards, including an induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the von Braun Ward, the Lindbergh Eagle and the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award.

Regarding her accomplishments, Obama said, “We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women.”

In addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, NASA announced at the White House ceremony, which included Ride’s life partner Tam O’Shaughnessy, a new agency internship program in Ride’s name intended to help students from underserved backgrounds pursue a research interest at one of NASA’s centers nationwide.

“Sally’s impact on our nation and future generations is immeasurable,” said Charles Bolden, NASA’s administrator and one of the astronauts who served with Ride in the agency’s astronaut corps in the 1980s. “God speed, Sally Ride, and thank you for reminding us to reach higher, break barriers and dream big.”

Ride passed away in 2012 of pancreatic cancer.

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