Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair was born in Lake City, South Carolina, on October 21, 1950. In 1967, he graduated valedictorian from Carver High School and went on to North Carolina A&T State University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in Physics. He earned his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) at the age of 26.
Dr. McNair became an expert in Laser Physics at the Hughes Research Laboratory and in 1978, was selected for participation in NASA's space shuttle program, becoming the second African American astronaut in U.S. history. He served as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger and died along with the rest of the Challenger crew when the space shuttle exploded nine miles above the Atlantic on January 28, 1986.
After his death, the U.S. Congress posthumously awarded him the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and endowed the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program.
Learn more about Dr. McNair on NASA's Astronaut Biographies page.