A mixed crowd of current and former students, faculty and administrators gathered in the Academic Classroom building to take part in the unveiling of a multi-media display celebrating North Carolina A&T’s history in space.

One side of the exhibition honors alumnus and astronaut Ronald E. McNair, who served as a mission specialist aboard the Challenger space shuttle in 1984. The second features the A&T Student Space Shuttle Program where students designed, built and tested a mini laboratory chosen for Space Shuttle Endeavour ten years later.

“On one level this display is about A&T’s two historic flights in space and on another level, a more personal level, this display is about dreams,” said Dr. Stuart Ahrens, director of the A&T Student Space Shuttle Program from 1979-1994.

Ahrens, who spoke at the unveiling, is a former physics professor of 26 years and friend of the late Ronald McNair. With the help of various faculty advisors and McNair’s mentorship, Ahrens lead more than 100 students in the interdisciplinary space shuttle program for 15 years.

“Dr. McNair loved A&T. He returned as often as possible to interact with the students and he never forgot A&T, even when he was in orbit around the earth traveling at 18,000 miles per hour,” Ahrens shared.

Chancellor Emeritus Edward B. Fort also shared words in honor of McNair, who frequently came back to campus as a NASA representative. After McNair’s death aboard the Challenger shuttle in 1986 students continued the program in his legacy. The program ended in 1994. Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. also served as the faculty advisor to the student-led space shuttle program.

The university still works on projects with NASA. Currently students from A&T are working on a joint project with students from Purdue University to design and build an experiment in capillary fluid dynamics to be operated on the International Space Station.

The interactive display will be permanently located in the lobby of the Academic Classroom Building.

View the A&T in Space Video.