COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - As the Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus celebrates 20 years as the region's top destination for space science education, a special guest spoke on the need to further explore the cosmos, 30 years after a national tragedy.
Carl McNair has been on a mission to share the life and legacy of his brother Ron McNair, an astronaut who beat the odds and became a crew member of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
"It was very important for me to step out and share with people his life," he said. "For obvious reasons, is not here to share it himself."
Ron and six other crew members launched into the skies Jan. 28, 1986.
What started as a celebration turned into a national disaster, after only 73 seconds of flight.
Carl said remembers the winding path Ron had to take as a young black man, to get the education needed to one day work for NASA.
"We'd come up in a time when we had separate schools," Carl said.
Carl said Ron first had to overcome the self-doubt he had about ever having the opportunity to go to space.
Ron eventually graduated from North Carolina A&T, then went on to earn a degree in laser physics from MIT.
For Carl, Ron's journey serves as an inspiration to children at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.
Any child, he said, can achieve the dreams his brother accomplished, and one day perhaps, usher in a new era of space exploration.
"To pursue and then succeed in getting into the space program is one of those improper able stories," Carl said. "It needs to be heard. Our young people regardless of their walk of life will be inspired by that."