On January 28, 1986, right before lunchtime, my elementary school class was finishing up a science lesson (I don’t remember what we were learning) and preparing to watch the space shuttle launch. Several minutes later, a look of horror spread across my elementary school teacher face after another teacher, who had run into our classroom crying, whispered something in her ear. Without saying anything to the captive audience of 4th graders, my teacher ran over to our classroom TV and turn it on. We saw a plume of smoke where there should have been a space shuttle named The Challenger.
In 1985, Christa McAuliffe was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project and she was scheduled to become the first teacher in space. As a member of the pace Shuttle Challenger mission, she was planning to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from Space Shuttle Challenger. On January 28, 1986, her spacecraft disintegrated 73 seconds after launch. After her death, schools and scholarships were named in her honor, and in 2004 she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
Dr. Ronald McNair, PhD, was one of the crew members who died in the space shuttle challenger explosion. He was only 35, yet he achieved so much in his short life. In 1971 he received a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics, magna cum laude, from North Carolina A&T State University.
McNair was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. In 1976, he received his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology becoming nationally recognized for his work in the field of laser physics.
He flew on STS-41-B aboard Challenger in February 1984, as a mission specialist becoming the second African American to fly in space.
In reflecting back on the legacy of Dr. Ron McNair, PhD, and Christa McAuliffe, I am inspired by two ordinary people who made extraordinary contributions to society because the pursues their dreams.