photo courtesy of NASA (Remembering Challenger)

The crew of STS-51-L: Front row from left, Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair. Back row from left, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judith Resnik.

Monday, January 28, 1986: It was a cold morning. There was no school. It was a snow day and my newborn sister was only a week home from the hospital. I was running around the house helping my Ma wrangle babies. (At the time I was the oldest of three, with sisters aged 1 and younger). We turned on the television and instead of prepping for Ma's soap operas, we were watching all of the ground and control room activity at the Kennedy Space Center. There was so much buzz about this crew, the diversity which included a school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, another female astronaut and engineer, Judith Resnik, the first Asian American astronaut, Ellison Onizuka, and African American astronaut Dr. Ronald McNair.

I was flitting around the house, but I was keeping an eye on it. My mother remembered that the NASA Space Shuttle was going up that day. I'm a science nerd, but my mom is the biggest Space Fan I know. So we watched. And counted down. And were enthralled as Challenger launched into the air. (Video of the Space Shuttle Challenger Lift off).

And our mouths dropped in disbelief as we saw the shuttle explode and watched pieces fall to the ground in all directions. Each of us clutching a baby to our chests. I remember thinking, wishing, hoping, praying that maybe the shuttle was still intact and they would somehow land. And be ok. And be alive. But alas, no. It was a heartbreaking moment to witness. And it still feels as quiet and sad to remember. But I do, we do -- to honor their sacrifices and the inspiration they have sparked in generations of others interested in space and science and technology and engineering.

IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award

Ronald McNair Scholars Program