Ron McNair plays sax in space, 1984

Ron McNair playing sax in space, 1984
Source: NASA, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Ronald E. Mickens Collection

Accomplished jazz saxophonist Ron McNair, the first astronaut to play a musical instrument in space, shown here playing the sax on the NASA STS 41-B mission aboard the Challenger, February 1984.


An accomplished jazz saxophonist, Ronald E. McNair PhD '76 was the second African-American to make a flight to outer space, where he was also the first astronaut to play a musical instrument.

McNair had plans to play a saxophone solo on board his second mission for composer Jean Michel Jarre's album Rendez-Vous (Dreyfus Records, 1986), including participation in the concert via live feed. The plans never came to fruition after McNair and the six other crew members of the STS-51L mission died tragically in the 1986 Challenger accident. As a tribute to McNair, the album's sixth and last piece is entitled Last Rendez-Vous (Ron's Piece) - 'Challenger'.

School: School of Science
Department: Physics
Career: Arts & HumanitiesEngineeringScienceTechnology
Object: Image
Collection: Integration and Differentiation 1969-1994, Music, NASA, Pop Culture, Ronald E. McNair