Daily Plant Masthead

Volume XXI, Number 4512
Monday, Oct 30, 2006

Honoring A Space Pioneer

Photo by Malcolm Pinckney

There are certain days when most people can remember exactly what they were doing when they heard the news of a tragic event.  December 7, 1941.  November 22, 1963.  September 11, 2001.  For many of us, January 28, 1986 is also etched in our memories as the day that the space shuttle Challenger exploded.

On October 20, 2006, Parks dedicated McNair Playground in East Harlem – a tribute to Dr. Ronald McNair, the second African-American to make a flight in space, who perished on board the Challenger.  Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined Congress Member Charles Rangel, City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito, NASA Astronaut William Readdy, and members of the McNair family to cut the ribbon on this new facility.  The $2 million playground was funded with allocations from Mayor Bloomberg and former Council Member Philip Reed.

“McNair Playground commemorates the life and legacy of Dr. Ronald E. McNair who lost his life in the Challenger space shuttle in 1986,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe.  “The playground celebrates Dr. McNair, space travel, and the joys of scientific exploration. We hope it will inspire a new generation of children to play hard, love science and boldly go where no child has gone.”
The brand new McNair Playground features a physics and space science theme in commemoration of Dr. McNair.  The playground incorporates planetary elements and objects emblematic of astrophysics.  The decorative spray shower features moonlike craters at its dome, the phases of the moon are also illustrated in the custom-made climber.

The playground contains two sundials- one can be used to tell the time (analemnatic Sundial) and one that stands as a stationary globe with the sun shining on it as it does across the earth (Earth Sundial).  The playground also features new benches, drinking fountains and trash receptacles.  Trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcover surround these active features.

Dr. McNair was an astronaut, physicist, Karate instructor, performing jazz saxophonist, husband and father.  He was recognized nationally for his work in laser physics.  In 1978, he was selected to participate in the space program from a pool of ten thousand.  In 1984, McNair became the second African-American to make a flight into space.  He was a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger, orbiting earth 122 times during the mission.  Sadly, his life was cut short on his next mission, when the Challenger exploded shortly after take-off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 28, 1986.

“Natural abilities are like natural plants; they need pruning by study.”

Red Auerbach
(1917 – 2006)

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