Ride died today after fighting pancreatic cancer for 17 months and in a statement her family recognised Tam O’Shaughnessy, “her partner of 27 years”.

The former astronaut, who went into space on two missions, in 1983 and 1984, was apparently a very private person who chose not to speak publicly about either her illness or her sexuality.

Her sister, Bear, also a lesbian, told buzzfeed.com:  “The pancreatic cancer community is going to be absolutely thrilled that there’s now this advocate that they didn’t know about. And, I hope the GLBT community feels the same.

“I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them,” she added.

“Sally didn’t use labels. Sally had a very fundamental sense of privacy, it was just her nature, because we’re Norwegians, through and through.”

When Buzzfeed asked about those who would have opposed legal recognition of her sister’s relationship, Bear Ride told the website: “Who cares about them, really? There are those who are stubbornly ignorant, and if they want to continue in that, God bless them, but probably best not to talk to my family.”

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