Christa McAuliffe was given a mission. She was to teach two lessons from the space shuttle Challenger. She spent 114 hours training for the mission alongside professional astronauts.
Christa McAuliffe was an ordinary person, a teacher by trade, chosen to perform an extraordinary act. She was to be the first civilian in space.
NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, needed a public relations boost. They were planning to launch the space shuttle Challenger for a mission into space. The launches and missions were becoming routine for the public, and NASA officials may have feared budget cuts would result from public apathy toward their space program.
So they decided to send a civilian into space. Out of the 11,500 applicants, Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher at Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire, was chosen to fly on the Challenger, to teach from space.
On January 28, 1986, the Challenger launched. 73 seconds later, it exploded. Christa McAuliffe, along with her six fellow crewmembers, was killed. The Challenger was destroyed.
Christa McAuliffe was a wife and mother, a daughter. She was a teacher, a Girl Scout leader, and an active member of her community. And she was a civilian mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger.
This ordinary person who became part of an extraordinary and historical event, was born Sharon Christa Corrigan in Framingham, Massachusetts on September 2, 1948. She went to high school and then to college, graduating in 1970 with a degree in history.
She married her high school sweetheart Steve McAuliffe in 1970. By 1978 she and Steve had one son named Scott, and Christa earned her Masters Degree in School Administration. Shortly after, Christa and Steve had a daughter, Caroline. They were living in an old house in Concord, New Hampshire.
Christa McAuliffe was an ordinary person with a loving family and a talent for teaching. When NASA put out a call for a civilian to fly along on a space mission, Christa’s family and friends urged her to fill out an application. After all, she was known as the Field Trip Teacher’. Would this not be the ultimate field trip?
She was chosen. She trained alongside the astronauts. And on January 28, 1986, she died with them.
In Concord, New Hampshire, there is the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium. Schools across America are named in her honor.
This ordinary woman had faith in the future, in all that life can offer. She became a part of history, part of an American tragedy, but also, part of the American legacy of hope and dreams and courage.