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Challenger Astronaut Memory Kept Alive Thirty Years Later

A park, numerous schools, a library, even a foundation bare the name of the second African American to ever travel into space – Ronald E. McNair.

Through these entities, McNair’s legacy has been kept alive some 30 years after the space shuttle Challenger exploded moments after take-off on January 28, 1986.

The Challenger Disaster, 30 Years Later: Remembering the Lives Lost 2:05

During the week of the 30th anniversary, tributes honoring McNair have been held across the country. At his alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University, the Annual Memorial Day program took place featuring community leaders as well as McNair scholars.

Image: McNair Hall in North Carolina A&T State University
McNair Hall in North Carolina A&T State University. North Carolina A&T State University

In Lake City, SC, an annual candlelight vigil is being held in honor of McNair at the Ronald McNair Memorial Park in Lake City.

According to reports, McNair’s daughter, Joy C. McNair, will also serve as guest speaker during a 30th anniversary commemorative banquet in Lake City.

NASA also held a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Current NASA Administrator and former astronaut, Charles Bolden, participated in the ceremony, according to NASA.

Day of Remembrance
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, right, and Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, left, lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns as part of NASA's Day of Remembrance on the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident, Thursday, January 28, 2016, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani) NASA/Aubrey Gemignani / (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

If it were not for McNair, Bolden may not have become an astronaut himself.

“He was the person who convinced Bolden to apply to NASA’s astronaut corp,” Stephanie Schierholz, NASA spokesperson told NBCBLK via email. “As Bolden said at the dedication of the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Life History Center in Lake City, South Carolina in March 2011, he and the rest of that crew were personal friends, ‘and that kind of loss and sacrifice is something you never forget. It re-energized NASA's commitment to safety.’”

People from across the globe watched as the shuttle, which had completed several successful flights prior to the January 28 incident, take off at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“It was something you never forget,” is how many have referenced the day via social media.

Day of Remembrance
The Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial is seen after a wreath laying ceremony that was part of NASA's Day of Remembrance on the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident, Thursday, January 28, 2016, at Arlington National Cemetery. Wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani) NASA/Aubrey Gemignani / (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

“The crews of Challenger and Columbia embraced this risk in a shared pursuit of exploration and discovery. Today, their legacy lives on as the International Space Station fulfills its promise as a symbol of hope for the world and a springboard to the next giant leap in exploration,” said NASA in a statement. “We honor them by making our dreams of a better tomorrow reality and taking advantage of the fruits of exploration to improve life for people everywhere.”