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February 03

Ron McNair

Ron McNair had intended to perform a saxophone solo by composer Jean Michel Jarre on his 1986 mission making it the first original piece of music recorded in space.

Photo by NASA/Space Frontiers/Getty Images.

1984: Rocket Man
Ron McNair plays the saxophone in space
Who knew astronaut Ron McNair, one of the first African Americans ever to be accepted into NASA’s Space Shuttle program, excelled at a wide variety of things, including science and sports?

McNair was an expert on laser physics, an accomplishment that helped him land a place on the Space Shuttle Challenger’s 1984 mission. You remember, this was the craft that hurtled into space to deploy satellites and handle other research and communications tasks.

On this day, McNair—an accomplished jazz saxophonist—played his instrument in space to the delight of NASA colleagues listening at Mission Control. Sadly, McNair and six others would perish in the next, ill-fated Challenger deployment, which took place on January 28, 1986.
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