This Week in History


Challenger space shuttle explodes with astronaut Judith Resnik on board

January 28, 1986
Resnik, Judith - still image [media]
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The first Jew and second woman to travel to space, Judith Resnik lost her life in the tragic explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, in which six other astronauts were killed.

Institution: NASA

The Challenger space shuttle exploded on January 28, 1986, just seconds after taking off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Among the seven crewmembers killed was Judith Resnik, the first American Jewish astronaut in space. Resnik joined the space program in 1978 after graduating from Carnegie-Mellon with a B.S. in electrical engineering and the University of Maryland with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Prior to the 1986 Challenger tragedy, Resnik served as the mission specialist on Discovery's maiden voyage in 1984, logging 144 hours 57 minutes in space. Resnik was the second American woman in space (after Sally Ride) and the fourth worldwide.

Before joining the space program, Resnik worked in the radar division of RCA, as a biomedical engineer in neurophysics at the National Institute of Health, and finally for the Xerox corporation. She was accepted into the NASA program, along with five other women, in 1978. Raised in Akron, Ohio, Resnik was a classical pianist and a gourmet cook, and also enjoyed running and bicycling. She was active in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the IEEE Committee on Professional Opportunities for Women, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Association of University Women.

To learn more about Judith Resnik, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia.

See also: Judith: Part of the Hanukkah Story; Judith Resnik in Cool Jewish Women.

Source:Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 1142-1143; Jewish Virtual Library, jsource/biography/ Resnik.html.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - Challenger space shuttle explodes with astronaut Judith Resnik on board." (Viewed on April 19, 2014) <>.