“M” is for McNair, Ronald Erwin [1950-1986]. Astronaut. As a young child in Lake City, McNair had a keen interest in science. After graduating from North Carolina Agricultural and State Technical University, he received his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at MIT, he had conducted significant work in laser technology. Upon graduation, he became a staff physicist at Hughes Research Laboratory, where he continued his laser research. His work attracted the attention of NASA and in 1978, McNair was selected as an astronaut candidate. The second African American in space, he made his first flight in February 1984 aboard the space shuttle Challenger. He was slated to undertake his second shuttle mission in January 1986. Tragically, the Challenger exploded shortly after its launch on January 28, 1986, killing Ronald Erwin McNair and his six fellow crew members.