IEEE-USA InFocusProducts & Services

Judith Resnik: Engineer, Astronaut, American Hero

By Paul Lief Rosengren

Judith Resnik was many things — an accomplished pianist, scholar, gourmet cook, engineer, and more — but she is best known for being the second American woman in space; the first Jewish person in space; and a member of the ill-fated Challenger Space Shuttle crew, that met a horrible, nationally-televised disaster.

The new IEEE-USA eBook Judith Resnik, Engineer, Astronaut, American Hero, chronicles Resnick’s journey from childhood in Akron, Ohio, through her academic achievements and career at RCA, The National Institutes of Health and Xerox; before setting her sights on, and landing her dream job of, becoming an astronaut.

When she saw a notice on a bulletin board announcing that NASA was recruiting astronauts, she didn’t just decide to apply, she set out and worked a plan to make sure she was selected. The plan included:

  1. Adopting a rigorous exercise and diet program
  2. Becoming a licensed pilot
  3. Reading books by former astronauts
  4. Seeking advice from former astronauts Micheal Collins, and John Glenn ( fellow Ohioan)
  5. Telegraphing NASA when she was awarded her doctorate in engineering

It worked, and she was selected as one of the six women to enter the NASA training program in Houston.

This IEEE-USA eBook documents her successful first flight on the maiden voyage of Space Shuttle Discovery; and her doomed flight on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Her story is one of determination, personal success (and challenges) and national tragedy.

The eBook, Judith Resnik, Engineer, Astronaut, American Hero is available for free at the IEEE-USA store for IEEE members; non-members pay $2.99. It is the fifth book in the award-winning, Famous Women Engineers in History series.

In 1986, IEEE established The Judith A. Resnik Award. The IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society (AESS) administers the award, recognizing those who “have provided outstanding contributions to space engineering.” The award includes a $2,000 honorarium and a plaque. More information on the IEEE AESS Judith Resnik Award is available on the IEEE-USA website. Nominees need not be an IEEE or AESS member.

Resnik has also been honored with scholarships offered by the State of Ohio, The Society of Women Engineers, and two higher educations institutions she attended — Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Maryland.

In addition, two schools have been named in her honor in Texas and Maryland; as well as a crater on the moon, alongside six other craters named after each of the other Challenger crew members.

The families of the Challenger crew have also established 55 Challenger Centers across the United States (and one in Korea), to offer hands-on STEM education — in part, through space travel simulations.

Other books in the Famous Women in Engineering History Series include:

The series was initiated, and is edited by IEEE-USA Publishing Manager; and Editor, IEEE-USA E-Books, Georgia C. Stelluto. Author Paul Lief Rosengren has written all of the books in this series.


Paul Lief Rosengren

Paul Lief Rosengren is a frequent contributor to IEEE-USA InSight and author of the Famous Women Engineers in History series. He also co-authored In the Time of COVID: One Hospital’s Struggles and Triumphs about the first year of COVID at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, NJ. Rosengren previously worked in internal and external communications for the State of New Jersey, NBC, PSEG, and BD. While at PSEG, he was a founding member of the PSEG Diversity Council, initiated and facilitated the PSEG D&I Book Club and received the PR News Diversity Award.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button