“Fly me to the moon.”
How those words must have run through the mind of 36 year old Christa (Sharon) Corrigan McAuliffe as the Space shuttle lifted off from its cradle on that fateful day in 1986, 28 January, little realising that within a few seconds not only her journey, but her life itself would be over as a result of the worst disaster in American space history, Minutes after take off the shuttle challenger disintegrated and all aboard were lost.
“let me live among the stars.”
Perhaps, even though Christa was never to return, her spirit continued on its journey, a journey that sent her in search of knowledge, understanding and adventure.
Christa, born in 1948 in Framingham, Massachusetts, was the eldest of five children. She met her future husband whilst at high school shortly after Christa qualified and received her degree, they married. Christa followed her love of education and entered the teaching profession until she gave birth to her first child Scott. The family moved to Concord, New Hampshire, where a second child, Caroline was born. Although Christa stayed home with the children, the classroom still beckoned, and Christa found herself once again teaching at Bow Memorial and Concord High School.
In 1985 NASA advertised their desire to send a teacher into space. All of Christa’s friends and relative urged her to “go for it,” and she did. It was as much a surprise to her as it was everyone else that she was chosen as the one. Ostensibly Christa was chosen because she was ordinary, but this was not the case.
Her training for the mission started in September 1985 and Christa worked exceptionally hard to keep up with seasoned astronauts, not wanting them to think that she was just along for the ride. In addition she was tasked to teach two lessons from space, explaining how the shuttle worked and introducing pupils on earth to the real life existence of living in space.
When the day of the mission dawned. Christa was ready and prepared. As she walked to the shuttle she carried the hopes aspirations and aspirations of millions throughout the world. As the shuttle lifted from its bed into the sky, there was a hush came over those watching and admiring the bravery of this special teacher who was a light unto the world. 73 seconds later that light was extinguished, along with those of her crewmates. The shuttle had exploded and Christa had truly gone to live amongst the stars. However in the silence and sadness that followed that tragic event, her motto seemed to whisper quietly across this distance to earth.
“I touch the future. I teach.” Christa was a teacher then, now and always will be. She was also one of the extraordinary ordinary people this world has ever know.