Celebrating Black History Month: Ronald E. McNair

By Rachel Spears — Political Editor

Ronald E. McNair


Ronald McNair, an astronaut and physicist, was the first Baháʼí and the second African American person to fly to space. As a kid, he stood up against segregation, insisting that he be able to check out an advanced science book at a whites only library. After earning his graduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976, he worked as a physicist studying chemical lasers. Two years later he was selected as a mission specialist astronaut for NASA. He completed his first spaceflight in 1984 and operated the space shuttle’s robotic arm that enabled a fellow astronaut to become the first person to perform a spacewalk untethered. McNair was one the seven passengers on the doomed Challenger flight in 1986. An accomplished saxophonist, he had been planning on recording a solo for an upcoming album while on the spaceflight. It would have been the first original piece or music to be recorded in space. McNair was known for his passion and pushing beyond what was expected. “Before you can make a dream come true, you must have one first,” he said. 

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