Friday, 28 January 2011

Former astronaut honors 25th anniversary of Challenger explosion

Matt Sunday/The Daily Athenaeum

‘The most important thing that has ever happened in space happened on this flight - the first Mountaineer in space,’ WVU graduate, Navy veteran and astronaut Jon McBride says.

Jon McBride, retired NASA astronaut, lectured on his personal experience and the life of late Challenger crew member Ronald McNair Thursday at West Virginia University in an event hosted by the McNair Scholars Program.

McBride, a Beckley, W.Va., native, was a friend and classmate of McNair during their time at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

McBride said he was watching during a training session on Jan. 28, 1986, when the Challenger tragedy occurred.

Four of the Challenger crew members were McBride's own classmates. McBride said had they been alive today and approached with flying another mission, they would have all accepted without hesitation.
"One of the things we found out on that day was that we were working people too hard," McBride said.
Provost Michelle Wheatley said she could remember exactly what she was doing 25 years ago when the Challenger launched. She was an assistant professor in Florida at the time, and she remembers watching the launch with some of her colleagues, she said.

"Of course, more than half of the people who are here tonight are under the age of 25," Wheatley said.
All seven members of the Challenger crew died when the spaceship exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, shortly after it was launched.

McNair was the second African-American to fly into space. The McNair Scholars program was established in his honor later in 1986 after the Challenger explosion.

It is a nationally funded scholarship that serves first-generation college students from low-income families, or students from underrepresented groups, such as African-Americans, Native Americans, Native Hawiians and Hispanics.

Betty Mei, assistant director of the WVU McNair Scholars Program, said the scholarship is open to rising juniors and seniors and offers opportunities in research training, GRE test preparation, tutoring and other tools to help McNair Scholars work toward goals in graduate study.

The deadline to apply for the scholarship was Jan. 14, and they are currently screening applications, she said. Mei said she encourages students to consider applying for the scholarship to help them achieve their higher education goals.

Anand Sunny Narayanan, a senior mechanical engineering and biology major, was a McNair Scholarship recipient in 2008. Narayanan said the McNair Scholarship helped his education.

"Growing up, I was not in the best financial situation. It was hard to imagine how I would be able to attain the education of my dreams," he said.

Ronald McNair earned his doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After the Challenger tragedy in 1986, the U.S. Congress named the newly established Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program for Ronald E. McNair.

Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle <i>Challenger</i> DisasterChallengerChallenger Revealed: An Insider's Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age

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