Ronald McNair

1950-1986 – On February 3, 1984, mission specialist Dr. Ronald McNair and his fellow crew members on space shuttle mission 41-B executed the first runway landing of the Challenger at Kennedy Space Center. McNair, a laser physicist, also played a key role in the mission’s other firsts: activating the Manned Maneuvering Unit; operating the Canadian Arm, which positioned crew members around the Challenger’s payload; and performing numerous mid-deck experiments.

In his “spare” time in space, McNair entertained the other four astronauts with a jazz concert on his saxophonealso a first in space. 

McNair’s advanced research in laser technology has been instrumental in advancing the uses of lasers. On his last Challenger mission, McNair was responsible for the Spartan-Halley, a satellite designed to track the orbit of Halley’s comet. That flight ended in a tragic explosion on January 28, 1986.

Graduated from Carver High School, Lake City, South Carolina, in 1967; received a bachelor of science degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971 and a doctor of philosophy in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976; presented an honorary doctorate of Laws from North Carolina A&T State University in 1978, an honorary doctorate of Science from Morris College in 1980, and an honorary doctorate of science from the University of South Carolina in 1984.