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Challenger Biographies: Judith Resnik

By Marty McDowell/NASA

Judith A. Resnik was one of three mission specialists on Challenger. Born on April 5, 1949 at Akron, Ohio, the daughter of Dr. Marvin Resnik, a respected Akron optometrist, and Sarah Resnik. Brought up in the Jewish religion, Resnik was educated in public schools before attending Carnegie-Mellon University, where she received a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1970, and the University of Maryland, where she took at Ph.D. in the same field in 1977. Resnik worked in a variety of professional positions with the RCA corporation in the early 1970s and as a staff fellow with the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, between 1974 and 1977.

Selected as a NASA astronaut in January 1978, the first cadre containing women, Resnik underwent the training program for Shuttle mission specialists during the next year. Thereafter, she filled a number of positions within NASA at the Johnson Space Center, working on aspects of the Shuttle program. Resnik became the second American woman in orbit during the maiden flight of Discovery, STS-41-D, between August 30 and September 5, 1984. During this mission she helped to deploy three satellites into orbit; she was also involved in biomedical research during the mission. Afterward, she began intensive training for the STS-51- L mission on which she was killed.

Source: NASA.


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Your Memories Shared!

"I saw a screen play at Carnegie Mellon University revolving around the life of Judith Resnick. She was a alumni of the university and they felt that due to the death of the teacher the rest of the crew was forgotten. It was so fascinating to see her story and to hear of all the accomplishments she had achieved in her life. Christin might have been the first teacher in space, but the rest of the crew trained years fo these positions, yet little about them was ever reported. The screen play was an excellent vehicle for people to appreciate Judith's life. I hope it becomes a movie and that everyone, expecially school children could be able to share in this experience. CMU did a great job in honoring one of their alumni."


"I am in fourth grade and my mom told me that since I am doing a report on a famous person I should do Judith Resnik. I share the same religion of Judaism. It was the anniversary of her death on Monday January 28. Nobody even remembers her so I wanted my class to know who Judith Resnik was. Every one should remember how smart, young, and how wisely she spent her time on Earth."

--Hayley Kantziper (age 9)

"The only thing I remember about that space launch is how beautiful Judy Resnik look as she waved to the crowd. I think that had I not seen her walking past the camera, I would not taken notice of the lift-off. I remember thinking, ‘Damn she's pretty...’ then it was over. You know what? I don't even remember the other crewmembers names, only her because she stood out so much better. I think about her every so often... GOD bless her soul."


"I was devastated when I saw the Challenger blow up. I had known Judith Resnik (Judy) from when I was a child. I only knew that she was a pianist and that she wanted to work for NASA. She knew the owner of a place that taught ballroom dance lessons down the street from where we lived here in Jacksonville, Florida. She would sing Show Tunes like "Whoops There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant" & "Singin' In the Rain" with me while she played her heart out on the piano. She had great compassion for me and showed me great love. At that time, I was a latch-key kid who would see her occasionally on my walk home from school. She also would borrow our neighbor's bike & ride around the block with me. She was a wonderful woman who encouraged me to be everything that I could be and to never let anything stand in my way!! I will always love her dearly and her memories will live with me forever. I am teaching my 8 year old daughter the same things that Judy taught me about courage and accomplishment. My daughter recently went to the Space Center and got to see & learn about Judy. I couldn't bring myself to go, though. I wish my daughter could be fortunate enough to have chance to know Judy as I did. I'm glad that Judy's legacy lives on today."


"Judith Resnick was Jewish. In fact, she was the first Jewish astronaut, although, for some reason, this fact is never mentioned in her bios. Perhaps that is because people tend to think of Jewishness in terms of religion only. But Jews are also an ethnic group and a minority culture, as much so as any other minority, so I think it is important to acknowledge the fact that Resnick was Jewish. Astronaut Ilan Ramon, also Jewish, was the first Israeli in space, but Resnick was the first Jewish person to go into space. "

--Rabbi Yonassan Gershom

Space References (Books):
Dickinson, Terence. Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. Firefly Books, 1998.
Greene, Brian. Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Vintage, 2000.
Hawking, Stephen. Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition. Bantam, 1996.
Hawking, Stephen. Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe. New Millenium, 2002.
Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell. Bantam, 2001.
Kaku, Michio. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps and the Tenth Dimension.
Kranz, Gene. Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. Berkley Pub Group, 2001.
Sagan, Carl; Druyan, Ann. Comet, Revised Edition. Ballantine, 1997
Sagan, Carl. Cosmos, Reissue Edition. Ballantine, 1993
Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Ballantine, 1997

Space References (Videos):
Cosmos. PBS, 2000.
Stephen Hawking's Universe. PBS, 1997.
Hyperspace. BBC, 2002.
Life Beyond Earth PBS, 1999.
The Planets
. BBC, 1999.
Understanding The Universe. A&E, 1996.


Judith A. Resnik

Courtesy of NASA

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