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About Dr. Ronald E. McNair

The late Dr. Ronald McNair was nationally recognized for his work in laser physics and was one of the thirty-five applicants selected by NASA from a pool of ten thousand. In 1984, McNair became the second African-American to make a flight into space as he was a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger. He was a member of the crew when the Challenger exploded nine miles over the Atlantic shortly after takeoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 28, 1986.

McNair was born on October 21st, 1950, in Lake City, South Carolina, and had to battle with racism and discrimination from a very early age. When he was nine he attempted to borrow books from his local public library, the Lake City Library, only to discover that ‘public’ meant that only whites could borrow books. This service was inaccessible to black people owing to the senseless Jim Crow laws of the time. Young McNair, however, politely insisted that he borrow the books. The police and his mother were called in to the library, but in the end he was allowed to leave with the books he desired.

This sense of tenacity combined with his affinities to science and technology propelled him through his brief but very impactful life. <