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I'm Jeff Hoffman, former NASA astronaut,
now professor of aerospace engineer
in the aeroastro department at MIT.
We're celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Challenger
disaster, where we lost Ron McNair and his six crew
members.
I knew Ron well.
We were both selected to be space shuttle
astronauts in early 1978.
We were the first group of astronauts specifically chosen
to fly on the space shuttle.
The shuttle of course having two pilots and five other crew
members could have scientists and engineers
on board, which Ron and I represented.
I worked here at MIT in the late '70s at the same time
that Ron was working on his Ph.D.
And I remember actually, before Ron was ever
selected as an astronaut, going to a physics lecture
that one day where Ron and his Ph.D. Thesis adviser
gave a demonstration on the physics of karate.
Ron was a fine karate practitioner.
Ron was very well liked by his fellow graduate students,
his professors, and of course, once we got down
to NASA, by all of his fellow astronauts-- very, very
talented human being.
And in fact, had many different skills.
He was also a keen jazz saxophone player.
And on his first space flight, he actually
took his saxophone into space, so that he could play jazz
for himself and his crewmates.
The 25th anniversary is coming at a time
when the space shuttle is soon to be retired.
Certainly, the Challenger disaster
reminds us of some of the serious problems
that the shuttle had.
It's also important to remember some of the accomplishments
that the shuttle made possible.
We used the shuttle to repair and maintain the Hubble Space
Telescope, to construct the International Space Station.
The future of human spaceflight in our country
is under discussion now and it remains
to be seen what the future holds in store,
but while we're thinking about the future.
It's important not to forget the past
to forget people like Ron, who made the ultimate sacrifice so
that humans could learn how to live and work
in orbit around the earth, and accomplish
that many things that the shuttle has allowed us to do.
So on this 25th anniversary, we remember Ron and his fallen
crew members, and hope that we will learn the lessons,
not let something like that happen again,
but also remember that exploring space
is a dangerous activity that without sacrifice and risk,
there will be no exploration.
And hopefully, we can take encouragement
from the example of Ron and his crew mates,
and have the courage to accept the risk
and go on and continue the exploration of space.