A StoryCorps Video About How Astronaut Ronald McNair Integrated His Hometown Library
Ronald McNair grew up to become an expert in laser research, a physicist and later, to join NASA as an astronaut. Unfortunately, Dr. McNair was killed in his second mission, the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion that claimed the lives of six other astronauts. The Challenger mission included Christa McAuliffe, who was the first schoolteacher in space, as well as Col. Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American to reach space.
Learn more about Ron McNair at the site Physicists of the African Diaspora, run by Dr. Scott Williams, professor of mathematics at the State University of New York at Buffalo. McNair was only 35 years old when he died, but he had inspired many and had achieved so much, not even letting a serious car accident deter him from his goal of becoming an astronaut. He was also an accomplished karate expert and a talented saxophonist who collaborated with Jean Michel Jarre on a “music from space” project for that fateful flight. Moon craters, schools, streets, community centers and other institutions and places are named in his honor. His lasting legacy?
Surviving McNair was his wife, Cheryl (Moore) McNair, a son Reginald and daughter Joy Cheray. Cheryl McNair, Ronald’s widow, was the first survivor to file a lawsuit against Morton Thiokol, manufacturer of the defective O-rings. She accused the company of deliberately failing to warn the astronauts about the defects. She reportedly received a settlement in excess of $1 million. Along with other surviving family members of Challenger victims, she founded the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in memory of the entire mission crew.
Ron McNair was a pathbreaker when he reached adulthood, but he showed who he was when he was a little boy of nine in his then-segregated hometown of Lake City, South Carolina. And all he wanted to do was read. His younger brother, Carl McNair, Jr., told this story about his famous brother. Enjoy.
- Eyes on the Stars – the story of astronaut Ronald McNair (storycorps.org)
- A sweet animated tale of Challenger astronaut Ronald McNair’s early experience standing up to racism (io9.com)
- Must-See: Remembering Challenger Mission Specialist Ronald McNair (essence.com)
- Remembering Challenger Astronaut Ronald McNair (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Remembering Ron McNair and the Challenger Crew (universetoday.com)