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Remembering Ron: Q & A with Carl McNair

Twenty-eight years ago today, NASA Challenger mission STS-51-L ended in tragedy when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after takeoff. The disaster took the lives of all 7 people on board including physicist, Ronald E. McNair, who was the second African American to enter space.

The crew of Challenger. In the back row from left to right: Ellison S. Onizuka, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Judith A. Resnik. In the front row from left to right: Michael J. Smith, Francis "Dick" Scobee, and Ronald E. McNair.

The crew of Challenger. In the back row from left to right: Ellison S. Onizuka, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Judith A. Resnik. In the front row from left to right: Michael J. Smith, Francis “Dick” Scobee, and Ronald E. McNair.

At StoryCorps, Carl McNair came to remember a different story about his brother Ron–one of a young kid in Lake City, South Carolina with big dreams. Our animated short, “Eyes on the Stars,” brings this story to life.

Today we are incredibly lucky to have Carl as our guest on We Are StoryCorps to talk about the legacy of his brother and what it really means to have your eyes on the stars.

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Carl McNair

W.A.S: Ronald was a fascinating person. Are there any other talents your brother had?

C.M: He was a 6 degree black belt in karate, played the saxophone on the NASA band, was ordained in the ministry as a deacon, and was an adjunct professor.

W.A.S: How about you?

C.M: Since I’m the older brother by 10 months, let’s just say I taught him everything he knew. However, I am also an author of two books: In the Spirit of Ronald E. McNair Astronaut, An American Hero and another book to be published soon.

C.M: The McNair Achievement Programs inspires and motivates students to excel in science and math through hands-on science programs. We give them a chance to learn more about careers related to science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) such as, space and science camp programs, robotics programs, etc.

W.A.S: How does this work relate to that of your brother’s life and legacy?

C.M: My brother had a PhD in laser physics from MIT, clearly demonstrating his passion for S.T.E.M. and his desire to share that passion with students.

W.A.S: What would you like individuals to take away from Ron’s story? What lessons do you hope it instills?

C.M: It doesn’t matter where you come, your race, ethnicity or circumstances. What really matters is your willingness to work hard, be disciplined and have definiteness of purpose, you will be successful.

My brother’s life story has many lessons. Here are few:

1. To achieve anything worthwhile you must leave your comfort zone because fear, oftentimes, will relentlessly try to talk you out of going for it.

2. Seize the opportunity. We all are presented with great opportunities, but often times we failed to achieve them because it appears to be beyond our capabilities and out of our comfort zone.

3. Whatever your passion or goal may be, pursue it with a resolve that quitting is not an option.

We hope “Eyes on the Stars” inspires you to always dream big.



One Response to “Remembering Ron: Q & A with Carl McNair”

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  • love this story and all the stories. I bought the DVD and its just priceless.
    I hope there will be many more to add to this story, I could listen to these all day and love the animation.

    Comment from Rachael on January 28, 2014 at 4:06 pm - Reply to this Comment

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