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Obama: Sally Ride taught girls to ‘reach for the stars’

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Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died Monday. She was 61. (NASA/AP)

President Barack Obama mourned the death of NASA astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, calling her "a national hero and powerful role model" -- especially for young girls.

Obama said he and first lady Michelle Obama were "deeply saddened" by Ride's passing from pancreatic cancer at age 61.

"As the first American woman to travel into space, Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model," the president said in a written statement. "She inspired  generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools."

"Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come," said Obama. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sally's family and friends."

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