GARDEN CITY, N.Y. - As we celebrate, we take you to Long Island where the first astronaut known to be part of the LGBT community is honored with a statue.
As CBS2's Cindy Hsu reports, Dr. Sally Ride broke barriers in many ways.
When the space shuttle Challenger lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in 1983, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman - and, at 32, the youngest American - in space.
"I'd been planning to go into research in physics and was continuing with those plans until the very day that I saw the announcement in the newspaper that NASA was selecting astronauts," Ride said.
NASA received more than 8,000 astronaut applications and Ride, who was a physicist, was one of 35 chosen.
A 7-foot statue of Ride was just unveiled at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. It's called "The First American Woman in Space."
Four students had the honor of unveiling the statue after winning an essay contest about Dr. Ride.
"She knows what she wants. She aims for the stars. and she said reach for your star, reach for the stars," said essay winner Angela Vorkas.
"She was brave and she went out. She wanted to do it and she did it. She accomplished her goal and here she is now, and she has her very own statue," said essay winner Mikayla Cronemeyer.
Steven Barber came up with the idea to create the first statue in honor of a female astronaut.
"To be able to shine the light on the first female NASA monument in history is my high honor, and this is the beginning of many, many, many more female monuments that have done extraordinary things in America," Barber said.
Ride died of pancreatic cancer in 2012. She was 61. And while she kept her personal life private, Ride's obituary revealed for the first time that she had a female partner for 27 years.
"She was the first gay woman even though nobody knew about it, and there's just so much more to her than what they say," said essay winner Deliana Batista. "It takes a lot of things to go that far in a man-dominated world."
"It breaks barriers and it helps other people realize that they can do whatever they want, they can be whoever they want to be, no matter who they like, what community they're a part of, and how they identify themselves as," said essay winner Sienna Brunetti.
After leaving NASA, she started Sally Ride Science, a company that creates science programs for kids, especially focusing on encouraging girls to study STEM. The programs have reached more than seven million students, encouraging them to reach for the stars.
Just last year, Ride was among the first five women honored by appearing on a quarter. The new quarter features George Washington on one side and Ride on the other.
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