On Aircraft Operations Division, Technical Assistant to

On April 30th, 1945, Michael J. Smith was born in Beaufort, North Carolina. As Michael grew up on a chicken farm, he watched airplanes come and go by the local airport. He was amazed by how the planes looked, so he made models based on the planes that he saw. When he attended Beaufort Carteret County High School, he played baseball, basketball, and football. He played sports while managing to become president of the student council, and to be voted most outstanding student by his classmates. During high school, at age 16, he got his student pilot license before he got he his license to drive an automobile. After graduating in 1963, he attended the United States Naval Academy, where he then received a science degree in Naval Science in 1967. While in the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, he received a master’s science degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1968. He was ranked 108 out of the 893 people in his class.             Michael continued to become fascinated with airplanes. He completed Navy aviation jet training in Kingsville, Texas, where he received his aviator wings.  After serving as an instructor in the Advanced Jet Training, he flew A-6 Intruders and was assigned to the USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63) Attack Squadron in Vietnam. After completing U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in 1974, he was assigned to work on CRUISE missile guidance systems in Patuxent River, Maryland. He flew 28 different types of civilian and military aircraft, logging 4,867.7 hours of flying. Michael then was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in May 1980, where he went on to complete his 1-year training in August 1986, qualifying him for assignment as a pilot in the future on Space Shuttle flight crews. He served as commander in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, Deputy Chief of Aircraft Operations Division, Technical Assistant to the Director, Flight Operations Directorate, and was assigned to the Astronaut Office Development and Test Group.            Michael’s first mission for NASA was on the space shuttle the Challenger STS-51-L, January 28th, 1986. This was NASA’s 25th mission of the U.S. shuttle program. The Challenger launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It launched at 11:38 a.m. EST. At just 73 seconds into launch, and at and altitude of 48,000 feet in the air, the Challenger blew up. Out of 7 crew members, no one survived the blow. Michael J. Smith was the pilot of the shuttle, and he is the last person recorded before the shuttle blew up. His lasts words were, “Uh oh.” Research shows that the Challenger blew up because of an external tank explosion. The tank broke apart, letting gasses from the external fuel tank mix to explode, tearing the space shuttle apart. The external fuel tank exploded after a rocket booster came loose and ruptured the tank. The shuttle then landed in the ocean. Michael J. Smith died on January 28th, 1986 in Cape Canaveral.            Many people across America watched the Challenger blow up live on television. This was NASA’s first in-flight tragedy that occurred. Since then, NASA scientists have made over 100 changes to shuttles to make them safer. As a result of what happened to the Challenger, only one other space shuttle blew up. Michael J. Smith lived an exciting life, even though his life ended in an unexpected way. He has received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and was promoted to the rank of Navy Captain and had a chair named in his honor at the U.S. Navy Postgraduate School.            Michael J. Smith was a very brave and honorable man who died doing what he loved. If what happened on January 28th, 1986 didn’t happen, there may have been more problems today regarding shuttles. He risked his life to help educate us better about space, so that’s why that day is apart of history.