Judith Resnik (1949-86) was one of the seven astronauts killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986. She was the second American woman and the second Jewish person in space, logging 145 hours in orbit during her first mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984.
Judith Arlene Resnik was born on April 5, 1949, in Akron, Ohio, the daughter of Marvin and Sarah Resnik. She attended Akron public schools, graduating from Firestone High School in 1966. A brilliant student, Resnik achieved a perfect SAT score — the only female student in her class to do so. In 1970, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University, and in 1977, she earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland. Resnik married Michael Oldak in 1970, but the couple divorced in 1974.
After graduating from Carnegie-Mellon, Resnik accepted a position with RCA, designing circuits for phased-array radar control systems. From 1974 to 1977, while pursuing her doctorate, Resnik worked for the National Institutes of Health as a biomedical engineer in the Laboratory of Neurophysiology, at Bethesda, Maryland. In 1978, she briefly worked for the Xerox Corporation, before being selected to join the National Aeronautics and Space Association as an astronaut.
At NASA, Resnik helped develop software for NASA’s space shuttle program. On August 30, 1984, Resnik flew into space as a mission specialist on the Orbiter Discovery’s maiden flight, making her only the second American women in outer space. Resnik was a mission specialist on flight STS 51-L, aboard the Orbiter Challenger, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 28, 1986. Tragically, the Challenger exploded shortly after launch, killing everyone on board.
On July 23, 2004, President George W. Bush posthumously awarded Dr. Resnik the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, recognizing astronauts who have distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the nation and of humankind.
The IEEE Judith Resnik Award for space engineering is named in her honor.
Resources for Judith Resnik:
- Judith Resnik at Ohio History Central
- NASA: Judith A. Resnik
- Judith Resnik at the Jewish Women’s Archive
- Judith Resnik at the Jewish Virtual Library
- Akron Women’s History: Judith Resnik
- IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award