Image of Astronaut Judith Resnik
NASA Image
Judith A. Resnik

Birthplace: Akron, Ohio, April 5, 1949

Challenger Position: Mission Specialist

Education: Graduated from Firestone High School, Akron, Ohio, in 1966; received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1970, and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1977

Honors: Graduate Study Program Award, RCA, 1971; American Association of University Women Fellow, 1975-1976; and NASA Space Flight Medal

Judith A. Resnik was one of three mission specialists on Challenger mission STS 51-L. She was born on April 5, 1949 in Akron, Ohio. Her parents were Jewish emigrants from Ukraine. She attended Hebrew school and later graduated from Firestone High School in 1966, where she excelled in mathematics and played classical piano. She also enjoyed bicycling, running, and flying during her free time. While in high school she received a perfect SAT score. She attended Carnegie-Mellon University and then went on to the University of Maryland, where she earned a PH. D. in electrical engineering. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, she was employed at RCA as a design engineer. During this time she worked with various NASA projects as a design engineer designing circuits. She also managed projects and provided engineering support for a number of NASA programs. From 1974 to 1977, Resnik worked as a biomedical engineer and staff fellow in the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1978, she became a systems engineer with Xerox Corporation in El Segundo, California.

Resnik was recruited into the astronaut program 1978 by Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols, who was then working as a recruiter for NASA. She completed a one-year training and evaluation program in 1979 and worked on several projects in support of Orbiter development, including the Remote Manipulator System (RMS). Her first space flight was aboard the maiden voyage of Discovery in 1984, mission STS 41-D, where she became the second American woman in space. She served as a mission specialist during a seven-day mission which deployed three satellites and performed a number of scientific experiments. During the flight, she was famous for her weightless acrobatics and a playful sense of humor, once even holding a sign reading "Hi Dad" up to the camera.

Resnik was selected as a mission specialist for Challenger mission STS 51-L. It was to be her second mission into space. Her family and a childhood friend were at the Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch. After the Challenger accident, she was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, and was survived by her parents, brother, two stepsisters, and grandmother. Her family sued the maker of the defective O-ring that contributed to the accident. They received a generous settlement and donated part of the money to the Challenger Center for Space Science in Houston and created scholarship funds in Resnik's name at her former high school and three universities. Resnik received posthumous honors and even had an impact basin on the far side of the Moon named after her. A dormitory at Carnegie Mellon and the main engineering lecture hall at the University of Maryland were also named after her. After her death, her father described her as "having the brain of a scientist and the soul of a poet."