President Barack Obama will posthumously award the nation's highest civilian honor to lesbian astronaut Sally Ride, the White House announced Monday.
Ride, who became the first American woman to travel to space in 1983, will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this year. Protective of her private life, she came out in her obituary after she died in July following a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
"We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women," Obama said in a statement. "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, and I look forward to welcoming her family to the White House as we celebrate her life and legacy."
Ride devoted much of her life to advancing science education and the U.S. space program. According to the White House, Ride's partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy, along with Ride's mother and sister, were notified the president had selected Ride for the honor last week.
[Photo: Sally Ride (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)]