Could Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, also have been the first lesbian in space? She died Monday after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, and according to her website, she is survived by Tam O'Shaughnessy, her "partner of 27 years."
Ride's sister and a spokeswoman for Sally Ride Science, the organization led by Ride and O'Shaughnessy, confirmed the relationship to BuzzFeed.com along with their preference to keep it private.
O'Shaughnessy--a professor emerita of school psychology at San Diego State University--wrote four books with Ride, but her interest in science started at an early age. The two scientists first met at age 12 playing tennis.
"O'Shaughnessy has been interested in science since she was a little girl," according to her biography. "One of her favorite childhood memories is of watching tadpoles in a creek gradually sprout legs, go green, and turn into frogs."
She wrote nine science books for children and helped Ride launch Sally Ride Science because of her "long-standing commitment to science education and her recognition of the importance of supporting girls' interests in science," according to the organization's website.
An article in the International Business Times says she was at Ride's side until the end.
Ride was not widely known in the gay community and was described as "elusive and enigmatic" and "protective of her emotions" in a 1983 Washington Post article referenced by her New York Times obituary.