Celebrating Christa McAuliffe
We remember teacher and Space Shuttle Challenger crew member Christa McAuliffe, who would have celebrated her 67th birthday this year. McAuliffe was selected by NASA from more than 11,000 applicants to be part of the Teachers in Space program. Tragically, she and the Challenger's six other crew members were killed when it exploded during takeoff on January 28, 1986.
As a child, McAuliffe was inspired by space exploration; the day after astronaut John Glenn orbited the Earth, she told a friend at her high school, "Do you realize that someday people will be going to the Moon? Maybe even taking a bus, and I want to do that!" Ultimately, McAuliffe choose to pursue her passion for teaching and accepted a position at Concord High School in New Hampshire in 1982. According to the NY Times, as a history teacher, she "emphasized the impact of ordinary people on history, saying they were as important to the historical record as kings, politicians or generals."
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced the Teacher In Space project. NASA began seeking out a gifted teacher who could broadcast lessons from space with the goal of fostering public interest in space exploration. McAuliffe applied immediately, writing in her application, "I watched the Space Age being born, and I would like to participate." Her selection was announced on July 19, 1985, and she began training for time in space and making media appearances, where her enthusiasm and excitement captivated the nation.
Just 73 seconds into McAuliffe's long-awaited flight, at an altitude of 48,000 feet, the shuttle Challenger exploded; an event witnessed on TV by millions, including many school children. Though her life was cut tragically short, McAuliffe's legacy lives on today: there are schools, scholarships, grants, and even a moon crater named after her. But we at A Mighty Girl think she'd be happiest to know that students everywhere still dream of touching space; as she said during a media appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, "If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on."