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Female space shuttle commanders remember Sally Ride (+video)

Two women who became space shuttle commanders after seeing Sally Ride's historic flight in 1983, reflect on the legacy of the first American woman in space.

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Collins and Melroy are not the only women to have commanded space missions. NASA's current chief astronaut is veteran spaceflyer Peggy Whitson, who commanded the International Space Station's Expedition 16 mission in 2007 and 2008. The space station's second female commander, Sunita Williams, is on the orbiting laboratory now and will take command later this year.

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Ride, a physicist, took her status as role model seriously, and harnessed it to reach out to students through Sally Ride Science, the company she founded in 2001. The organization worked to inspire boys and girls in the subjects of science, math and technology through outreach in classrooms and teacher training.

"I met Sally for the first time on her speaking tour after her first flight, shortly after I had graduated from Wellesley College," said Melroy, who retired from NASA in 2009 and now works at the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. "She was fascinating, smart, humble, very nice - and completely inspirational."

Ride died at age 61 in San Diego, Calif., of pancreatic cancer.

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