As NASA remembers the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident today, we wanted to tip our hats to some of the words that its crew shared while they were still on Earth. Here’s a little more about the seven members of that fateful trip:
“I touch the future. I teach.”
Christa McAuliffe, teacher/payload specialist, 37.
The first schoolteacher to fly in space, McAuliffe was an instant hit with the media. NASA wanted a gifted educator to communicate with students from the final frontier, and McAuliffe was plucked out of a pool of 11,000 applicants.
“I can never remember anything I wanted to do but fly.”
Mike Smith, pilot, 40.
Smith was educated at the U.S. Naval Academy, later working as a test pilot for the Navy and logging more than 4,300 hours of flying time. He was the last person to speak before all data cut out from the shuttle, according to a NASA transcript.
“I want to do everything there is to be done.”
Judy Resnik, mission specialist, 36.
Resnik was the second American woman in orbit after Sally Ride’s flight on Challenger. She was also a classical pianist, and she loved flying so much, she was working toward a pilot’s license before she died.
“Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds … to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.”
Ellison Onizuka, mission specialist, 39.
Born in Hawaii, Onizuka served on active duty with the Air Force, and he was the first Asian-American in space just a year before. To this day, his quote is imprinted on American passports.
“The true courage of spaceflight is not sitting aboard 6 million pounds of fire and thunder as one rockets away from this planet. True courage comes in enduring .. and believing in yourself.”
Ron McNair, mission specialist, 35.
McNair was the second African-American in space after Guion “Guy” Bluford, who was in the same class of astronauts. A gifted athlete, McNair had a fifth degree black belt in karate and even performed a bit of jazz saxophone on the side.
“For any contingency, they know what to do … So I feel very, very comfortable.”
Gregory Jarvis, payload specialist, 41.
Jarvis beat out 600 other employees for a spot on the Challenger. He’d even been scheduled twice for other flights, losing them both times to members of Congress. Jarvis was also a classical guitarist and played a mean game of squash.
“It’s a real crime to be paid for a job that I have so much fun doing.”
Dick Scobee, commander, 46.
Scobee started out as a U.S. Air Force mechanic but itched to fly. After receiving his pilot wings and serving in Vietnam, he became a test pilot who flew more than 45 types of planes, logging more than 6,500 hours in the air.