Ride, who in 1983 became the first American woman in space, died of cancer at age 61 on July 23, 2012. Her sexual orientation was not widely known until her death, at which time her obituary revealed she survived by her female partner of 27 years.
“We remember Sally Ride not just as a national hero, but as a role model to generations of young women,” said Obama in a statement. “Sally inspired us to reach for the stars, and she advocated for a greater focus on the science, technology, engineering and math that would help us get there.”
“Sally showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I look forward to welcoming her family to the White House as we celebrate her life and legacy,” said Obama.
The award is not limited to U.S. citizens and, while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel and worn on the uniform.
The medal will be presented to Ride’s surviving partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, and family members in an awards ceremony to be scheduled later this year at the White House.