Astronaut and academic Sally Ride has died today of pancreatic cancer. She was the first American woman to travel into space on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.

The biography at the Sally Ride Science Foundation website tells of a driven youth, obtaining both her Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees of Physics at Stanford University in California. According to her official NASA biography, she was selected her as an astronaut candidate in 1979. Her first flight was on the STS-7 mission from June 18th to June 24th 1983, after serving as the ground communications commander on STS-2 and STS-3.

This sudden death is common to those who suffer from pancreatic cancer. According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, only 75 percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer make it past the first year. This is due to the lack of testing available to physicians who suspect that a patient may have pancreatic cancer, and the lack of reliable symptoms a patient can express. PCAN states that only 8 percent of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer catch it before it metastasizes.

Ms. Ride was an inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and the California Hall of Fame. She also served on both the Challenger and Columbia accident investigation committees. Ms. Ride is survived by her partner and lifelong friend, teacher and science writer Tam E. O’Shaughnessy.