By Sonya Magett, EnStarz | Jul 24, 2012 10:29 AM EDT
Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel into space, died Monday at the age of 61 from pancreatic cancer.
Ride's death on Monday has brought attention to another aspect of her personal life that until now had not been made public: that she had a long-time relationship with female partner Tam O'Shaughnessy.
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Sally Ride's official website, Sally Ride Science, identified O'Shaughnessy as her company's Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President for Content. The website also gave background about how the friendhsip started:
"Sally Ride and Tam O'Shaughnessy became friends at the age of 12 when they both played tennis. While their lives took different paths, they stayed in contact over the years. Ride went to Stanford University, earned a BS, an MS, and a PhD in physics, and became the first American woman to fly in space; O'Shaughnessy became a professional tennis player and later earned a BS and an MS in biology from Georgia State University and a PhD in school psychology from the University of California-Riverside."
O'Shaughnessy is also an accomplished Professor Emeritus of School Psychology at San Diego State University.
"She oversees the development of Sally Ride Science's classroom books, teacher guides, and educator institutes," the bio also notes.
"In addition, Dr. O'Shaughnessy is the author of 9 science books for children, including "Our Changing Climate: Ecosystems" and "The Third Planet" (co-authored with Sally Ride), which won the American Institute of Physics Children's Science Writing Award."
In 1982, Ride married fellow astronaut Steven Hawley; that union ended in divorce in 1987, ABC News reported.
Ride's sister, Bear Ride, referred to O'Shaughnessy as "a member of the family," according to Buzzfeed. "People did not know she had pancreatic cancer, that's going to be a huge shock. For 17 months, nobody knew -- and everyone does now. Her memorial fund is going to be in support of pancreatic cancer."
Bear also noted, "The pancreatic cancer community is going to be absolutely thrilled that there's now this advocate that they didn't know about. And I hope the GLBT community feels the same. I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them."
Ride became the first American woman to fly in space in 1983 to blast off on the Challenger as part of the STS-7 crew, according to NASA. She flew her second shuttle mission on October 5, 1984, again aboard the Challenger. That mission, STS-41G, was the first shuttle crew to include two women. After she retired from NASA in 1987, Ride became a member of the faculty of the University of California, San Diego and the California Space Institute, according to Huffington Post.
Ride is survived by her partner Tam O'Shaughnessy, as well as her mother, sister, niece and nephew.
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