Judith Resnik

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Judith Resnik
Judith A. Resnik, official portrait (cropped).jpg
NASA astronaut
Nationality American
Status Killed during mission
Born (1949-04-05)April 5, 1949
Akron, Ohio
Died January 28, 1986(1986-01-28) (aged 36)
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Other occupation
Time in space
6d 00h 56m
Selection 1978 NASA Group
Missions STS-41-D, STS-51-L
Mission insignia
Sts-41-d-patch.png STS-51-L.svg
Awards Congressional Space Medal of Honor

Judith Arlene Resnik (/ˈrɛznɪk/; April 5, 1949 – January 28, 1986) was an American engineer and a NASA astronaut who died when the Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed during the launch of mission STS-51-L.

Resnik was the second American female astronaut in space, logging 145 hours in orbit. She was also the first Jewish American in space, and the first Jewish woman of any nationality in space. She was a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland. The IEEE Judith Resnik Award for space engineering is named in her honor.

Early life[edit]

Resnik was born in 1949 to Sarah and Marvin, an optometrist, in Akron, Ohio. Both her parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. A graduate of Firestone High School in 1966, she excelled in mathematics and played classical piano. She received a B.S. in electrical engineering from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University in 1970, the year she married fellow student Michael Oldak.[1] They divorced in 1975. In 1977 she earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the University of Maryland. She was a member of Tau Beta Pi and Alpha Epsilon Phi.


Upon graduation from Carnegie Mellon, Resnik was employed at RCA as a design engineer, and later worked with various NASA projects contracted to the company.[2]

While working toward her doctorate, Resnik was affiliated with the National Institutes of Health as a biomedical engineer. Later, she was a systems engineer with Xerox Corporation.[3]

One of the first six women NASA astronauts, Resnik (third from left) stands behind a prototype Personal Rescue Enclosure

Resnik was recruited into the astronaut program in January 1978 by actress Nichelle Nichols, who volunteered her time in a special project with NASA to recruit minority and female personnel for the space agency.[4] Her first space flight was as a mission specialist on the maiden voyage of Discovery, from August to September 1984. She was likewise a mission specialist aboard Challenger for STS-51-L.[5][6][7] She was the first American Jewish astronaut to go into space, the first Jewish woman, and at the time only the second Jew to go to space (after Boris Volynov of the Soviet Union).[8]

Resnik was the second American woman in space, after Sally Ride, and fourth overall.[9]

Following the Challenger disaster, examination of the recovered vehicle cockpit revealed that three of the crew members' Personal Egress Air Packs were activated: those of Resnik, mission specialist Ellison Onizuka, and pilot Michael J. Smith. The location of Smith's activation switch, on the back side of his seat, means that either Resnik or Onizuka could have activated it for him. This is the only evidence available from the disaster that shows Onizuka and Resnik were alive after the cockpit separated from the vehicle. If the cabin had lost pressure, the packs alone would not have sustained the crew during the two-minute descent.[10]


Mission Specialist Judith Resnik
Resnik on the middeck of Discovery during STS-41-D

Resnik has been awarded multiple posthumous honors, and has been honored with landmarks and buildings being named for her, including a lunar crater Resnik, located within the Apollo impact basin on the far side of the Moon. A dormitory at her alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, and the main engineering lecture hall at the University of Maryland are named for her. A memorial to her and the rest of the crew of Challenger has been dedicated in Seabrook, Texas, where she lived while stationed at the Johnson Space Center. In her hometown of Akron, Ohio, a school building was named in her honor: Judith Resnik Community Learning Center. There is also an elementary school in Gaithersburg, Maryland named in her honor: Judith A. Resnik Elementary School.

The IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award was established in 1986 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and is presented annually to an individual or team in recognition of outstanding contributions to space engineering in areas of relevance to the IEEE.[11]

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) awards the Resnik Challenger Medal annually to a woman who has changed the space industry, has personally contributed innovative technology verified by flight experience, and will be recognized through future decades as having created milestones in the development of space as a resource for all humankind.[12]

The Challenger Center was established in 1986[13] by the families of the Challenger crew – including Judith's brother, Charles Resnik MD,[14][15] in honor of the crew members. The goal of the center is to increase STEM interest in children.

Resnik has been portrayed in works of nonfiction and fiction, including the 1990 made for TV movie Challenger where Julie Fulton portrayed her.

On February 23, 1990, Resnik was named one of ten finalists to represent Ohio in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.[16]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ "Remembering the Challenger". The Ohio Historical Society Collections Blog. Archived from the original on 2016-01-05. 
  2. ^ UPI staff (4 February 1986). "Resnik was `living out a dream`". The Milwaukee Journal. UPI. Part 2 Page 5. Retrieved 3 July 2013. Both got engineering jobs with RCA Corp. in Morristown N.J. 
  3. ^ Renner, Lisanne (29 January 1986). "Coverage from the day space shuttle Challenger exploded: Resnik liked a job label with no frills". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 3 July 2013. Resnik didn't earn her pilot's license, the first step toward becoming an astronaut, until she left the National Institutes of Health in 1977 and took a job as a senior systems engineer with Xerox Corp. in El Segundo, Calif. 
  4. ^ "Nichelle Nichols, NASA Recruiter". NASA. Archived from the original on 2009-12-22. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  5. ^ "Biographical Data - Judith A. Resnick". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. December 2003. 
  6. ^ "The 51-L Crew: Judy Resnick". The Challenger Center. Archived from the original on 2012-07-06. 
  7. ^ "Remarks of Senator John Glenn, Memorial Service For Judith Resnik". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 1986-02-03. 
  8. ^ "Judith Resnik". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  9. ^ Wade, Mark. "Resnik". Archived from the original on 2009-10-08. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  10. ^ Joseph P. Kerwin. "Letter from Joseph Kerwin to Richard Truly relating to the deaths of the astronauts in the Challenger accident". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  11. ^ "IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award". IEEE. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  12. ^ "Resnik Challenger Medal". SWE. Retrieved 2017-03-24. 
  13. ^ "Who We Are". Challenger.org. Retrieved January 15, 2018. 
  14. ^ "Resnik, Charles - University of Maryland School of Medicine". MedSchool.UMaryland.edu. Retrieved January 15, 2018. 
  15. ^ "Charles Resnik". Challenger.org. Retrieved January 15, 2018. 
  16. ^ Jim Siegel (February 24, 2010). "10 Ohioans proposed to represent state in U.S. Capitol". The Columbus Dispatch. Archived from the original on February 26, 2010. Retrieved February 27, 2010. 

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