When Sally Ride, the first American woman in orbit, died on Monday at age 61 of pancreatic cancer, America lost a pioneer in space and aviation.
But, it turns out, the LGBT community lost a pioneer of sorts, too.
Though she never broadcast her 27-year relationship with partner Tam O’Shaughnessy, the former Challenger astronaut never tried to hide it:
The two became partners in 1985–two years after Sally Ride’s history-making NASA flight–but they first met while playing tennis at the age of 12 years old.
They were together until the very end, when Ride died Monday in La Jolla, Calif., after inspiring a nation to dream big.
“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
After more than a quarter-century together O’Shaughnessy won’t receive Ride’s death benefits because the women could never marry. But people like Ride encouraged us to look to the future with optimism, and know that barriers can, and must, be broken.