January 28, 1986 – Ronald E. McNair (Astronaut)
NASA astronaut Dr. Ronald Ervin McNair died aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger launch disaster on January 28, 1986. Dr. McNair died along with six other members of the Challenger after it came apart in space 73 seconds after launch.This tragic event took away the life of seven american heroes and resulted in the grounding of the entire shuttle fleet for two and one half years. McNair was born on October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina to Carl and Pearl McNair. After graduating valedictorian in 1967 from Carver High School, McNair went on to attend and graduate in 1971 magna cum laude from North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics. He graduated in 1976 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Ph.D. in physics. McNair began work at Hughes Research Lab in California after graduation. McNair was chosen as one of 35 applicants from over ten thousand for entrance into the NASA astronaut program. Dr. McNair became the second African American to fly in space. Although, Dr. McNair is no longer with us, his memory lives on through the memorials, numerous schools, and public buildings named after him.