Ronald E. McNair, born October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina, was one of the astronauts killed during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, mission STS-51.








He first became involved in NASA thru an initiative conducted by NASA and Nichelle Nichols, communications officer Lieutenant Uhura of Star Trekfame, to recruit minority candidates for the space program. Dr. McNair became one of these candidates and was selected for the astronaut program in 1978. He completed 1-year training and evaluation period in August 1979, whereby qualifying for assignment as mission specialist astronaut on Space Shuttle flight crews. His first space flight, as a mission specialist was in February 1984; He was the second Black man to travel into space.

Dr. McNair’s pre-NASA lifetime achievements included: 

  • He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from North Carolina, and a Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1977. 

  • While at MIT, he performed some of the earliest development of chemical HF/DF and high-pressure CO lasers. 

  • In 1975, he studied laser physics with many authorities in the field at E’Cole D’ete Theorique de Physique in Les Houches, Frances. He published several papers in the areas of lasers and molecular spectroscopy and gave many presentations in the United States and abroad. 

Ronald E McNair: Page 2