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Challenger Crew: Ronald E. McNair

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Posted at 4:00 PM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 11:07:19-05

January 28th, 2016 marks the 30 year anniversary since the Challenger explosion. Watch WTXL ABC 27 every night at 6pm as we profile A crew member of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Tune in on January 28th for a special coverage of Lessons Learned from Challenger.

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- Dr. Ronald E. McNair served as a mission specialist on Challenger. Originally from South Carolina, this was McNair's second flight into space.

At 35-years old, Ronald McNair had a lot going for him. A wife, two children, and a dream career, plus, he was a 5th degree black belt karate instructor and a performing jazz saxophonist.

"Our Ron was an accomplished black belt, a multi-degree black belt, you'll see his actual karate gi that he wore in competition. Also accompanying is his sword which he used in practice fighting as well."

After graduating magna cum laude from North Carolina A&T in 1971, McNair earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in physics from MIT a few years later.

His love for science, particularly lasers, landed him on a global stage.

In 1978, he was selected as a member of the first class of space shutle astronauts.

His first flight as a mission specialist came on February 3, 1984. STS-41B launched from the Kennedy Space Center, and culminated in the first landing on the runway at Kennedy - eight days later.

"Ron was very well liked by his fellow graduate students, his professors, and of course, once we got down to NASA, by all of his fellow astronauts."

Less than two years later, he would suit up again for another trip to space, this time on space shuttle Challenger.

McNair's legacy continues on, with several schools, libraries, buildings, streets and even a crater on the Moon named after the astronaut.

WTXL ABC 27 and the Challenger Learning Center honor Dr. Ronald McNair and will forever remember his contribution to the exploration of space.