The first American woman in space has passed away at the age of 61. Sally Ride broke barriers and inspired people to reach for the stars.
And in death, Ride may have become a role model for another reason. The obituary posted on her organization's website noted Ride's partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy. It's believed to be the first public acknowledgment of their same-sex relationship.
A 2009 article on the same site described Ride and O'Shaughnessy as "good friends" and "co-authors." But it also reveals some of their romantic story. They met at age 12 through tennis. O'Shaughnessy went on to play professionally. And through the years, they stayed in touch.
Ride's sister, Bear, tells the website Buzzfeed that the relationship was never hidden. She says most people also did not know about Sally Ride's pancreatic cancer because she was a "very private person."
Some will argue that Ride's orientation is unimportant, that she should be remembered solely for her scientific and educational accomplishments. To that I say, name one openly gay astronaut.
Sally Ride was a trailblazer for women into the final frontier. Let's not limit her now.[cnn-video url=http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2012/07/24/exp-ns-sally-ride.cnn]