Judith Resnik, 1949-1986

Judith Resnik, Akron’s own woman astronaut, died doing what she loved – flying into space. Resnik was one of the seven astronauts who died aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986.

Born in Akron on April 5, 1949, Resnik was the daughter of Dr. Marvin Resnik, an Akron optometrist, and Sarah Polen Belfer of Bedford Heights, Ohio. She was a product of Akron’s public schools. She went to Fairlawn Elementary, Simon Perkins Junior High and Firestone High School. Resnik went on to college at Carnegie-Mellon University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1970 and her doctorate from the University of Maryland in 1977.

She worked at RCA as a design engineer, at the Laboratory of Neurophysiology and National Institutes of Health as a biomedical engineer and at Xerox as a systems engineer.

In 1978, Resnik happened upon a report that NASA was accepting applications for astronauts. That job sounded good to her so she applied — one of 8000 who did. NASA accepted just 35, six of them women, one of them Judith Resnik

She faced rigorous training but Resnik was always up to a challenge. In August 1979, she graduated from the space program. Her first mission was as a specialist on the STS 41-D, launched in August 1984. It was the first flight of the orbiter Discovery and Resnik was in space seven days. On board that mission, she charmed the world when she flashed a sign that read “Hi Dad.”

Resnik was looking forward to another space flight in 1985, this one on board the Challenger. But the flight was delayed until Jan. 28, 1986. That was when the Challenger exploded shortly after lift off. Judith Resnik was only 36 years old.

Resnik always loved her job. In 1984, she told Akron’s Roundtable, “I think that astronauts probably have the best jobs in the world.” She advised students in the audience to “Study what interests you. Do all you can and don’t be afraid to expand into new fields.”

After her death Resnik’s father described her – “She had the brain of a scientist and the soul of a poet.”

Photo courtesy of NASA.

–Casey Moore