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By Andrew Shain
Astronaut Ronald McNair planned to retire after his second space flight in 1986 and was talking with officials about leading an aerospace program at the University of South Carolina.
But the MIT-educated physicist from Lake City was killed when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, shortly after liftoff. A quarter-century later, however, an aerospace program that bears McNair’s name is getting off the ground at the flagship university of McNair’s home state.
USC said Thursday that the McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research has received a second $5 million donation, named a director and decided on its first majors.
McNair would have approved, said his friend, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.
“Today, we’re helping to fulfill his dream for him,” Clyburn told a gathering of school, business and community leaders. “The McNair Center serves as a living legacy for every precocious child who says, ‘Why not?’ ”
USC president Harris Pastides said the aerospace center could become similar to Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research. That center has corporate partners including BMW, which has a plant in Greer.
“I would like the companies of South Carolina to tell us what they would like to see,” Pastides said.
USC already receives about $30 million a year in grants to do aerospace-related research, Pastides added...
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