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Transcript of Ronald McNair
One of America's first African-American astronauts, Ronald Ervin McNair was a loving son, brother, husband, father, accomplished saxophonist, physicist and NASA astronaut. Ronald set and achieved many goals; personal, academic and professional goals, including getting his Ph.D. within 10 years of graduation from high school. Dr. McNair also received lots of recognition in his lifetime for his hardwork, efforts, and contributions. His life continues to inspire many as his memory is honored in different ways around the world.
Birth and Death
Born on October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina, Ronald McNair was raised by his parents Pearl M. and Carl C. McNair. Ronald was the middle child of three siblings, older brother Carl S. and younger brother Eric A. McNair.
Dr. McNair died on January 28, 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger mission STS-51-L exploded 1 minute and 13 seconds after launch from the Kennedy Space Center. He was one of seven diverse crew members selected for this Challenger flight, that also included the first private citizen, scheduled for January 28th.
The Challenger disappeared in the middle of flames and dense smoke, then plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean. None of the seven crew members survived this tragic event in U.S. space history.
Valedictorian of his senior class, Ronald graduated from Carver High School, Lake City, South Carolina, in 1967. He then went on to college were he graduated magna cum laude
with a bachelor of science degree in Physics from North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, NC, in 1971.
He then went on to graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While he was working on his doctoral thesis, he was robbed and lost his case which contained all his data — the accumulation of two years of specialized laser physics research. Despite this set back, he began again, and produced a second data set in less than a year. He never complained and believed the second data set turned out better than the first. At the age of 26, Ronald McNair received a doctor of philosophy in Physics from MIT in 1976.
Dr. McNair was also 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.
Ronald E. McNair
By:Tyler O. Baskett
Presented On: 11/14/2014
“To make a dream come true, first you must dream…” ~ Dr. Ronald E. McNair
Ronald grew up in a low-income family in a house with no running water or electricity in racially segregated Lake City, South Carolina. However, his mother (a high school teacher) and father (auto mobile repairman) always encouraged him and his older brother, Carl, to set high academic goals even though they had many obstacles in their childhood.
Ronald was a very smart child and was always ready to learn. He was taught to read by his grandmother who could read, but not write. He began school at the early age of four. At the age of nine, Ronald successfully challenged the "whites-only" borrowing books privileges at the local library. As youngsters, a show came on TV called Star Trek. It showed the future — where there were blacks and whites working together. Ronald saw this as a possibility, not just a TV show and decided he wanted to become an astronaut. Even as a child, he refused to accept second best and always worked hard to make his dreams come true.
Ronald McNair met his future wife Cheryl B.Moore of Brooklyn, New York at a church social in Cambridge, Massachusetts in early 1976 while in school at MIT. Less than two months after receiving his doctorate from MIT, Ronald married Cheryl, who was also a school teacher like his mom.
Very shortly after becoming married, Ron and Cheryl headed West to California where he began his career at Hughes Research Laboratories. In 1978, Dr. McNair and his wife moved from California to Texas so that he could begin six years of training to become a space shuttle crew member.
After the first two years of training in Texas, Ron and Cheryl welcomed their first child, a boy, named Reginald McNair. Two years later, the family welcomed their second and last child, a girl named Joy. His widow, Cheryl says the couple had planned to move back to Lake City following Ron's second mission.
As a student at MIT, Ronald made important contributions to the study of chemical HF/DF (hydrogen fluoride/deuterium fluoride) and high pressure CO lasers. In 1976, at the age of 26, McNair was awarded his Ph.D. for his dissertation
a long essay on a particular subject
entitled Energy Absorption and Vibrational Heating in Molecules Following Intense Laser Excitation.
After obtaining his Ph.D., Dr. McNair worked as a physicist at the Optical Physics Department at Hugh Research Laboratory in California where upon his work on electro- optic laser modulation for satellite to satellite space communication, he soon became a recognized figure within physics.
On his first flight in 1984, aboard the multipurpose orbital space shuttle Challenger, he conducted seventeen experiments involving, among other things, optical and electrical properties of arc discharge, atomic oxygen erosion, cosmic ray physics, growth of spores, protein crystallization, and seed germination, And, he was in charge of operating the remote manipulator system (RMS) shuttle arm.
Ronald (left) and Carl McNair
Ronald and wife Cheryl
Ronald and daughter Joy (left) and Carl (right)
Ronald E. McNair memorial in Lake City, SC
"Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends
entirely on how well you prepare for them and how
badly you want them. . . ..You're eagles! Stretch your wings and fly to the sky."
— Ronald E. McNair
McNair Hall, constructed in 1987, is named for NCAT alumnus Dr. Ronald E. McNair and houses the College of Engineering
Ronald and his older brother Carl, freshman year in college
On Dec. 5, 1986, MIT dedicated Building 37, home to the Center for Space Research and part of the aeronautics and astronautics department, to Ronald E. McNair.
Aboard his first Challenger mission in 1984. On that trip, he played his saxophone while in orbit.
On January 28, 2011, 25 years after his death the building that housed McNair's childhood library was named after him
Ronald McNair's work in the field of physics continues to have an impact on the world of space technology. His many contributions have helped satellite communications improve with lasers. His legacy is remembered in numerous student and teacher aid programs and named schools and buildings, keeping his spirit and his legacy alive.
Ron felt that being in space, and seeing Earth from a great altitude, let him know that we are ONE community, interconnected, and fragile. His story of overcoming obstacles continues to impact the lives of future scientist and astronauts from all races.
Dr. McNair has inspired many to break the barriers of color and adversity. The current head of NASA, Major General Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., said it was Ronald McNair who encouraged him to apply to the space program.
The U.S. Dept of Education annually funds the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Programs, which awards grants totaling more than $41.8 million this to 179 colleges and universities to prepare students for doctoral studies. Its website lists numerous public schools named in his honor. The Dr. Ronald E. McNair Foundation, Inc., develops and implements educational programs to motivate and encourage students to pursue careers in science, mathematics, and technology. More than 10,000 students and teachers have participated.
Ronald was a fifth level black belt in karate
In conclusion, Ronald McNair was a pioneer (a person who is among those who first do something) in the science world. Ronald changed a lot of people's perspective about the intelligence of blacks in science. People from all different backgrounds are inspired and fascinated with Ronald McNair's story. He inspires many to believe that anything possible if you dream big, believe in yourself, and study and learn as much as you can. If Ronald McNair was alive today he would be 64 years old. I believe that he would be the head of NASA and would have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in physics and engineering.
Eyes on the Stars
Atomic Oxygen Erosion
12th NASA Administrator
Carl McNair, brother of Ronald E. McNair, returns to his Alma Mater NCAT.
Remote Manipulator System (RMS) shuttle arm