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NASA, MIT Announce Professorship Honoring Challenger's Ron McNair

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Space Shuttle Challenger Mission Specialist Ronald E. McNair - NASA, MIT Announce Professorship

Space Shuttle Challenger STS-51L Mission Specialist Ronald E. McNair

NASA
Date: 11/24/05

NASA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, are honoring the memory of Challenger astronaut and MIT alumnus Ronald E. McNair by establishing a teaching and research position in his name. The Ronald E. McNair-NASA Visiting Professorship in Astronautics builds on a long tradition of cooperation between NASA and MIT.

"MIT has always been key to NASA's success. Our people, technology development, and scientific investigations have been intertwined since the earliest days of the space program," said NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations William Readdy. "This professorship is a new opportunity for NASA and MIT to work together to educate a generation of students who will help us achieve the Vision for Space Exploration," he added.

The Ronald E. McNair-NASA Visiting Professorship in Astronautics

The professorship will be a rotating position for a NASA scientist or engineer to teach and conduct research for at least a year at MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Funding for the professorship will come both from NASA and MIT, and the two will work together to select candidates for the position.

MIT has 33 alumni who have become astronauts. That is more than any other non-military institution in the U.S. They have flown in more than one-third of the nation's space flights.

"Reggie, Joy, and I are elated to hear about the creation of the Dr. Ronald E. McNair-NASA Visiting Professorship, by two great institutions he was devoted to," said his widow, Cheryl McNair, on behalf of the couple's two children. "Thank you to NASA and MIT, and we look forward to working together on future opportunities to honor Ron's legacy and commitment to youth," she added.

The Too Short Life of Ronald E. McNair

Ron McNair earned a doctorate in physics from MIT in 1976, and during his time there, he did important early developmental work on high-pressure lasers. McNair first flew on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984, becoming the first person to operate the Shuttle's robotic arm when he used it to position a fellow crewmember during a spacewalk.

His next mission aboard Challenger ended tragically shortly after launch on January 28, 1986. McNair and his six crewmates -- Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and S. Christa McAuliffe -- died.

"Dr. McNair was a champion for education and his life epitomized educational excellence. This cooperative agreement means not only inspiring the next generation of leaders and explorers but also provides students with learning experiences that support educational excellence in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology while improving scientific literacy," said Dr. Adena Williams Loston, NASA's Chief Education Officer.

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