Teacher Professional Development

What Was the name of the teacher who died in the space shuttle challenger disaster

What Was the name of the teacher who died in the space shuttle Challenger disaster.?

One Top Question at the Moment.

You may have seen this question many times, during interviews and examinations Well, here is the background to it.


Christa McAuliffe was a social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire. She was one of the seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. McAuliffe was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project and was scheduled to become the first teacher in space. On January 28, 1986, the shuttle broke apart 73 seconds after launch. There were no survivors. In 2004, Christa McAuliffe was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Sharon Christa McAuliffe (née Corrigan; September 2, 1948 – January 28, 1986) was an American teacher and astronaut from Concord, New Hampshire who was killed on the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-51-L, where she was serving as a payload specialist.

McAuliffe received her bachelor’s degree in education and history from Framingham State College in 1970 and her master’s degree in education, supervision and administration from Bowie State University in 1978. McAuliffe took a teaching position as a social studies teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire in 1983.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced the Teacher in Space Project, and McAuliffe learned about NASA’s efforts to find their first civilian, an educator, to fly into space. NASA wanted to find an “ordinary person,” a gifted teacher who could communicate with students while in orbit.  McAuliffe became one of more than 11,000 applicants.

”I cannot join the space program and restart my life as an astronaut, but this opportunity to connect my abilities as an educator with my interests in history and space is a unique opportunity to fulfill my early fantasies. I will never give up.” Christa McAuliffe, 1985

Teachers in Space

NASA hoped that sending a teacher into space would increase public interest in the Space Shuttle program, and also 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.


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.

According to Mark Travis of the Concord Monitor, it was McAuliffe’s manner that set her apart from the other candidates.

NASA official Alan Ladwig said “she had an infectious enthusiasm”, and NASA psychiatrist Terrence McGuire told New Woman magazine that “she was the most broad-based, best-balanced person of the 10.

Later that year, McAuliffe and Morgan each took a year-long leave of absence from teaching in order to train for a Space Shuttle mission in early 1986.

NASA paid both their salaries. While not a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps, McAuliffe was to be part of the STS-51-L crew, and would conduct experiments and teach lessons from space. Her planned duties included basic science experiments in the fields of chromatography, hydroponics, magnetism, and Newton’s laws.

She was also planning to conduct two 15-minute classes from space, including a tour of the spacecraft, called “The Ultimate Field Trip”, and a lesson about the benefits of space travel, called “Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going, Why”.

Live Broadcast

The lessons were to be broadcast to millions of schoolchildren via closed-circuit TV. To record her thoughts, McAuliffe intended to keep a personal journal like a “woman on the Conestoga wagons pioneering the West.”

After being chosen to be the first teacher in space, McAuliffe was a guest on several television programs, including Good Morning America; the CBS Morning News; the Today Show; and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where, when asked about the mission, she stated, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

She had an immediate rapport with the media, and the Teacher in Space Project received popular attention as a result.


According to NASA, it was in part because of the excitement over McAuliffe’s presence on the shuttle that the accident had such a significant effect on the nation. Many school children were viewing the launch live, and media coverage of the accident was extensive.

Barbara Morgan, her backup, became a professional astronaut in January 1998, and flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-118, to the International Space Station, on August 8, 2007, aboard Endeavour, the orbiter that replaced Challenger


Peter N. Djangmah is a multifaceted individual with a passion for education, entrepreneurship, and blogging. With a firm belief in the power of digital education and science, I am affectionately known as the Private Minister of Information. Connect with me

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