An historical marker was unveiled in July 2019 honoring NASA astronaut Michael J. Smith who was the pilot aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle (STS-51-L) that exploded shortly after lift-off in 1986. Michael Smith is a native of Beaufort NC and attended school in the small Carteret County NC community, learned to fly at what is now a general aviation airport named after him, and still has living family in the area.
January 28, 2020 marks the 34th anniversary on the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in which commander Michael J. Smith was aboard.
The author of this article was a senior in High School at the time of the Challenger explosion and attended his local funeral where the President of the United States ordered the missing man formation be flown to honor him.
Today, many small monuments adorn Beaufort NC honoring this local hero and schools in this coastal city have murals on the walls where school children can learn more about his early years and accomplishments.
The official historical marker maintained by the State of NC sits at the corner of Airport Rd and Highway 101 in Beaufort NC and hopefully will serve to remind people of the incredible sacrifice Michael J. Smith gave to this country during the early years of the space shuttle program, as a naval aviator, and young NASA astronaut.
Readers are encouraged to share this document on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook so that others can learn more about the history of Michael J. Smith and to use the discussion form below to engage with us and others on how this local hero and NASA astronaut still affects the Beaufort and Carteret County community today.
Additionally, we can imagine young children in the area seeing the marker and his contributions at their schools and begin their dream of learning to fly, serving our country in the armed forces, or by becoming a part of modern space exploration.
I honestly can not imagine a greater legacy and if you are a member of the Smith family reading this we hope that you will use the comment form below to give us more information about what this historical achievement means to your family, the Town of Beaufort, and any accomplishments we missed in this article.
Born in April 30, 1945 and gave the ultimate sacrifice on January 28, 1986.
Naval aviator (Captain) and engineer.
Flew 28 different types of civilian and military aircraft and logged 4,867 hours of flying time.
Honored with a chair position at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.
Flew combat mission during the Vietnam War from the USS Kitty Hawk.
Entered NASA service in 1980.
Naval test pilot.
Awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 2004.