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Judith Resnik
Judith Resnik.jpg
NASA astronaut
Status Killed during mission
Born April 5, 1949(1949-04-05)
Akron, Ohio
Died January 28, 1986 (aged 36)
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Other occupation Engineer
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-patch-small.png

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

Resnik was the second American woman and the second Jewish person in space, logging 145 hours in orbit. 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.



Resnik was born in Akron, Ohio and attended Hebrew school. Judith A. Resnik has one brother, Charles, four years younger. Her parents were Marvin, an optometrist, and Sara Resnik. A graduate of Firestone High School in 1966, she excelled in math and played classical piano. While at Firestone she achieved a perfect SAT score, the sole female to do so that year. She received a B.S. in electrical engineering from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University in 1970, the year she married fellow student Michael Oldak. They divorced in 1974 because Michael wanted children; Judith wanted to focus on her career. Resnik then earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1977 at the University of Maryland. After graduation from Carnegie Mellon, she was employed at RCA as a design engineer, and later worked with various NASA projects contracted to the company.

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.



Resnik was recruited into the astronaut program January 1978 by actress Nichelle Nichols, who was working as a recruiter for NASA.[1]. Resnik's 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.[2][3][4] Resnik was the first American Jewish astronaut to go into space, the first Jewish woman, and only the second Jew to go to space (after Boris Volynov of the Soviet Union).[5]


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

For people accustomed to seeing images of astronauts in space, Dr. Resnik's first space mission still caused some notoriety. Not only was she one of the first women in space, but in zero gravity, she displayed a halo of flowing locks, a startling sight to many viewers who were accustomed to seeing closely cropped men. During the flight, she was acclaimed for her weightless acrobatics and a playful sense of humor, once holding a sign reading "Hi Dad" up to the camera, and displaying a sticker on her flight locker that advertised her crush on actor Tom Selleck.[6]

Since her death, Resnik has been awarded many posthumous honors. Numerous public buildings and facilities have been named after her, mostly schools and educational facilities, including a dormitory at her alma mater, Carnegie Mellon.

The Judith Resnik Award was established in 1986 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The award is presented to an individual or team in recognition of outstanding contributions to space engineering.[7]

Resnik was honored by the naming of lunar crater Resnik, located within the Apollo impact basin on the far side of the Moon.

Resnik has been portrayed in numerous works of fiction, including the 1990 made for TV movie Challenger.


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