EDISON - Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, passed away yesterday after a 17-month-long battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 61.

Ride died at her home in LaJolla, Calif., a suburb of San Diego.

Ride was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1978, the same year she earned her doctorate degree in physics from Stanford University.

She flew twice in space, both times aboard Challenger, in 1983 and 1984, logging 343 hours in outer space.

Ride was a physicist, a writer of five books for children, and president of her own company - Sally Ride Science - as well as a professor of physics at the University of California in San Diego.

She also served on the president's committee of science advisers.

According to Ride's office, she is survived by Tam O'Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years; her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear, a niece and a nephew.