Judith A. Resnik, 36, was one of the first women to be recruited as an astronaut and, as a mission specialist on a six-day shuttle flight in 1984, she was the second American woman to fly in space.
She joined NASA soon after receiving her doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1977, and during her eight years with the space agency she was frequently asked to speak of her role as a "woman astronaut" and as a "Jewish astronaut." Most such suggestions she turned aside, saying that she preferred to describe herself as "just another astronaut, period."
In a 1983 speech at the University of Maryland, however, she said she hoped to lead by example.
"I've been the only woman astronaut-engineer for years," she said. "It's not a new experience. It is important for women to recognize that we cannot stand alone in the limelight as we one by one penetrate areas new to us. True, we must continue forward with our endeavors and firsts, and broaden our horizons at every opportunity. But firsts are only the means to the end of full equality, not the end itself."
Her fascination with science and engineering had always shaped her goals, and after graduating from Firestone High School in Akron in 1966 she received her bachelor's degree from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
For the next four years she was a design engineer on radar control systems for RCA Corp. in Springfield, and then joined the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda to do research on the physiology of human sight.
After receiving her doctorate in 1977, Resnik went to work as an engineer with Xerox Corp. in El Segundo, Calif., where she saw a NASA recruiting poster. She joined NASA the following year in the same group with Sally Ride, who in 1983 became the first American woman in space.
Resnik worked on several shuttle projects, including development of the spacecraft's remote-control arm. She lifted off Aug. 30, 1984, on the 12th shuttle flight and conducted solar power experiments with a 102-foot solar sail.
After the flight, Tom Sawyer, the mayor of Akron, declared a Judy Resnik day, and a special ceremony was held at the city's Civic Theatre.
Resnik is survived by her father, Marvin Resnik of Akron, and her mother, Sarah Belfer of Cleveland.