Ron’s perseverance gave him the ability to deal with any difficult situation. One evening I visited him at MIT where he was working on his Ph.D. After he finished his lab work he packed his books and data into a duffel bag, and we walked to his car near the river. He put the bag down by the car door and we walked the short distance down to the river to see the lights reflected in it. When we got back to the car, the bag was gone. The material in it represented years of work and I said, “What are you going to do?” He just looked at me calmly and said, “I have some of the results in notebooks at home and at the lab. What I don’t have, well, I’ll have to duplicate.” He was silent for a while, but he wasn’t outraged or depressed; he was going to solve this problem without showing strain. After that he worked day and night in that lab for about four months. The result was that the deadline for his doctoral thesis was reached, and the professor thought the paper turned out quite well, even improved.
(Cheryl McNair, wife)
Navy Cmdr. Michael Smith
Mike’s family was always first in his heart despite his busy schedule and enormous responsibilities. When I was pregnant with our first child he had his sister-in-law teach him to sew so he could make me a maternity dress. It was a green corduroy jumper, and it lasted through three pregnancies. I loved that dress; I just couldn’t throw it away. All the children’s bedroom furniture was also designed and built by Mike, and whenever our children were away, Mike helped them maintain their lawn-mowing business in Houston. Our friends used to say, “It’s so funny to look out and see an astronaut mowing our lawn.” He was a very, very special person, and I say that not because I was married to him. He just was.
(Jane Smith, wife)
Greg was someone who always finished what he started. He was an avid squash player and a few years ago entered his first tournament as a novice. At one point the other player swung his racquet and hit Greg just below the eye. He needed stitches so he hopped on his motorcycle and went to the hospital. The doctor, who was a friend, stitched him up, and Greg raced back to the tournament. He didn’t win, but he finished the game.
(Marcia Jarvis, wife)
To June Scobee, both her husband, Dick, and their good friend Christa McAuliffe shared a sense of marvel about space and modesty about their role in it.
Our family always tried to be together for dinner, and Dick listened as closely to our daily adventures as we did to his. Just hours after Dick’s first spaceflight we went to our favorite restaurant, and Dick explained with marvelous detail the visual images and colors and light he had seen. It was beyond description, he said, so clear, much more vibrant and magnificent than what we see on earth. As we talked he kept bringing his silverware and napkin very close to his plate. Then he stuck his napkin under his plate. I finally asked what he was doing. He said, “Oh, I was afraid my napkin might float away.”
Christa visited our home many times to discuss the crew, training and plans for the flight. She was a teacher through and through. One evening in the kitchen I said, “Christa, you’re famous. Everywhere you go people want your autograph. How does that make you feel?” She answered, “June, it’s no different than signing hall passes for my students to be excused from class.”
Air Force Lt. Col. Ellison Onizuka
When children asked El what space meant to him, he’d say that in his earlier years he thought space was just the volume between his ears. It made them comfortable, and even I thought it was kind of funny. El was multifaceted, but the one thing that stood out was his strong sense of obligation to the youth, to the generation coming up behind him. That’s the part I admired most. Fatigue was not a parameter, and in a trip to Hawaii in 1985 he made more than 90 public appearances in 12½ days, mostly to secondary schools, colleges and youth organizations. The enthusiasm for space exploration was his gift to these young people. He encouraged the freedom to dream and the commitment to making those dreams come true. He always said there was nothing wrong with dreams; they were reachable; they were tomorrow’s reality.
(Lorna Onizuka, wife)
Judith once wrote a letter to a friend in which she told her that nothing is obtained by wishing for it, that hard work and perseverance are necessary for success. And that’s the way she lived her life, whether in high school, college or NASA. During college she took a job as a court reporter in order to help pay her expenses. The man who ran the court-reporting practice told me he had never seen anyone work so hard to achieve what she wanted. He said, “She works harder than any girl I ever had. She takes 10 minutes for lunch while the others take an hour.” Ten minutes for lunch while the others take an hour. That says it.
(Marvin Resnik, father)