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Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffeChrista McAuliffe (September 2, 1948 January 28, 1986) Sharon Christa Corrigan, was an American teacher from Concord, New Hampshire. McAuliffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts and received her bachelor's degree in education and history from Framingham State College in 1970 and a Master of Arts from Bowie State University in 1978. She took a teaching post as a social studies teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire in 1982.

In 1985, McAuliffe was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project and she was scheduled to become the first teacher in space. As a member of mission STS-51-L, she was planning to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from Space Shuttle Challenger. On January 28, 1986, her spacecraft disintegrated 73 seconds after launch and she was one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. After her death, schools and scholarships were named in her honor and in 2004 she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

NASA hoped sending a teacher into space would increase public interest in the space shuttle program and demonstrate the reliability of space flight at a time when the agency was under continuous pressure to find financial support. President Reagan said it would also remind Americans of the important role that teachers and education serve in their country.

The Council of Chief State School Officers, a non-profit organization of public officials in education, was chosen by NASA to coordinate the selection process. Out of the initial applicant pool, 114 semi-finalists were nominated by state, territorial, and agency review panels. McAuliffe was one of two teachers nominated by the state of New Hampshire. The semi-finalists gathered in Washington, DC from June 22-27, 1985 for a conference on space education and to meet with the National Review Panel that would select the 10 finalists.

On July 1, 1985, McAuliffe was announced as one of the 10 finalists and on July 7 she traveled to Johnson Space Center for a week of thorough medical examinations and briefings about space flight. The finalists were interviewed by an evaluation committee composed of senior NASA officials, and the committee made recommendations to NASA Administrator James M. Beggs for the primary and backup candidates for the Teacher in Space Project. On July 19, 1985, Vice President George H. W. Bush announced that McAuliffe had been selected for the position (another teacher, Barbara Morgan, served as her backup)

STS-51L Mission PatchSTS-51L Mission Patch
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Christa McAuliffe