Christa McAuliffe: Wikis


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Sharon Christa McAuliffe
Christa McAuliffe.jpg
Spaceflight Participant[1]
Status Killed during mission
Born September 2, 1948(1948-09-02)
Boston, Massachusetts
Died January 28, 1986 (aged 37)
off Cape Canaveral, Florida
Other occupation Teacher
Selection Teacher in Space Project
Missions STS-51-L
Mission insignia STS-51-L-patch-small.png

Sharon Christa Corrigan McAuliffe (September 2, 1948 – January 28, 1986) née Sharon Christa Corrigan, was an American teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, and one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she 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 (capacity as a kind of Spaceflight participant), and she was scheduled to become the first teacher in space.[2] 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. After her death, schools and scholarships were named in her honor, and in 2004 she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.


Early life

Born Sharon Christa Corrigan on September 2, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts, McAuliffe was the eldest of five children born to Edward Christopher Corrigan (1922-1990), an accountant, and Grace Mary (George) Corrigan, a substitute teacher.[3][4][5] She was part Irish, Lebanese, German, English, and Native American.[6] McAuliffe's mother is of part Maronite Lebanese origin through her father (McAuliffe's grandfather), and is a niece of Arab historian Philip Khuri Hitti.[7] McAuliffe was known by the name "Christa" from an early age, although in later years she signed her name "S. Christa Corrigan", and eventually "S. Christa McAuliffe."[8]

The year McAuliffe was born, her father was completing his sophomore year at Boston College.[3] Not long thereafter, he took a job as an assistant comptroller in a Boston department store, and the family moved to Framingham, Massachusetts, where Christa attended and graduated from Marian High School in 1966.[9] As a youth, she was inspired by Project Mercury and the Apollo moon landing program. The day after John Glenn orbited the Earth in Friendship 7, she told a friend at Marian High: "Do you realize that someday people will be going to the Moon? Maybe even taking a bus, and I want to do that!"[10] She wrote years later on her NASA application form: "I watched the Space Age being born, and I would like to participate."[11][3]

Career as an educator

McAuliffe attended Framingham State College in her hometown, graduating in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in education and history.[12] A few weeks later, she married her longstanding boyfriend Steven J. McAuliffe, whom she had met at Marian High, and they moved closer to Washington, DC, so that Steven could attend the Georgetown University Law Center.[9][3] They had two children: Scott and Caroline, who were nine and six respectively when she died.[13]

McAuliffe was a teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire

McAuliffe obtained her first teaching position in 1970, as an American history teacher at Benjamin Foulois Junior High School in Morningside, Maryland.[14] From 1971 to 1978, she taught history and civics at Thomas Johnson Middle School in Lanham, Maryland. In addition to teaching, she completed a Master of Arts in education supervision and administration from Bowie State University in Maryland.[12] In 1978, she moved to Concord, New Hampshire, when Steven accepted a job as an assistant to the New Hampshire Attorney General.[3] McAuliffe took a teaching post at Concord High School in 1982. She was a social studies teacher, and taught several courses including American history, law, and economics, in addition to a self-designed course: "The American Woman."[15] An important part of her teaching techniques were field trips or bringing in speakers. According to The New York Times, she "emphasized the impact of ordinary people on history, saying they were as important to the historical record as kings, politicians or generals."[16]

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced the Teacher in Space Project, and she learned about NASA's efforts to find the first civilian, an educator, to fly into space.[17] NASA wanted to find an "ordinary person," a gifted teacher who could communicate with students while in orbit.[14][3] McAuliffe became one out of more than 11,000 applicants,[17] writing:

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.

Christa McAuliffe, 1985[18]

Teacher in Space Project

Christa McAuliffe undergoing pre-flight training experiences weightlessness during a KC-135 "vomit comet" flight

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.[19][20][21] President Reagan said it would also remind Americans of the important role that teachers and education serve in their country.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[23]

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.[23] 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.[25] According to Mark Travis of the Concord Monitor, it was McAuliffe's manner that set her apart from the other candidates.[24] 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."[24]

In the autumn of 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.[3][26] (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.[27] 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."[14][28] The lessons were to be broadcast to millions of schoolchildren via closed-circuit TV.

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.[29] She had an immediate rapport with the media, and the Teacher in Space Project received tremendously popular attention as a result.[3]

Disaster and aftermath

Christa McAuliffe and Barbara Morgan

On January 28, 1986, McAuliffe boarded Space Shuttle Challenger with the other six crew members of STS-51-L. Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight at an altitude of 48,000 ft., leading to the deaths of all seven crew members.[30][3] According to NASA, it was in part because of the excitement over McAuliffe's presence on Challenger that the accident had such a significant effect on the nation. Many schoolchildren were viewing the launch live, and media coverage of the accident was extensive.[31]

The Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, also known as the Rogers Commission, was formed to investigate the disaster. It determined that the accident was due to a failure of rubber O-rings made by Morton Thiokol that provided a pressure seal in the aft field joint of the shuttle's right Solid Rocket Booster.[32] The failure of the O-rings was attributed to a design flaw, as their performance could be too easily compromised by factors including the low temperature on the day of launch. The Commission found that O-ring resiliency was directly related to temperature and due to the cold temperature at launch, 36 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 degrees lower than the next coldest previous launch, it was probable the O-rings had not provided a proper seal.[32]

Barbara Morgan, McAuliffe's backup, became a professional astronaut in January 1998.[26] Morgan flew on space shuttle mission STS-118, to the International Space Station, on August 8, 2007, aboard Endeavour, the orbiter that replaced Challenger.[33][26] She became the first teacher to successfully reach space, 21 years after the Challenger disaster.[34]


McAuliffe's remains were buried at Blossom Hill Cemetery in Concord, New Hampshire.[35] She has since been honored at many events, including the Daytona 500 auto race in 1986.[36] The Christa McAuliffe Planetarium/McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord and the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center for Education and Teaching Excellence at Framingham State College are named in her memory,[37][38] as are the asteroid 3352 McAuliffe,[39] the crater McAuliffe on the Moon,[40] and a crater on the planet Venus, which was named McAuliffe by the Soviet Union.[41] Approximately 40 schools around the world have been named after her, including the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center in Pleasant Grove, Utah.[42][43]

The McAuliffe Exhibit in the Henry Whittemore Library at Framingham State College

Scholarships and other events have also been established in her memory. The Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference has been held every year in Nashua, New Hampshire since 1986, and is devoted to the use of technology in all aspects of education.[44] The Nebraska McAuliffe Prize honors a Nebraska teacher each year for courage and excellence in education.[45] Grants in her name, honoring innovative teachers, are provided by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Council for the Social Studies.[46][47]

In 1990, McAuliffe was portrayed by Karen Allen in the TV movie Challenger.[48] The spaceship on the 1996–1997 children's science-fiction series Space Cases, about a group of students lost in space, was called "Christa".[49] In 2006, a documentary film about McAuliffe and Morgan called Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars aired on CNN in the CNN Presents format.[50] The film, produced by Renee Sotile and Mary Jo Godges, commemorated the 20th anniversary of McAuliffe's death. The 75-minute feature version was narrated by Susan Sarandon, and included an original song by Carly Simon.[51]

Christa McAuliffe's gravestone in Concord, NH

McAuliffe's parents worked with Framingham State College to establish the McAuliffe Center for Education.[42] Her husband Steven remarried and became a federal judge in 1992,[52] serving with the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire in Concord. McAuliffe's son Scott completed graduate studies in marine biology, and her daughter Caroline went on to pursue the same career as her mother: teaching.[42] On July 23, 2004, McAuliffe was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush.[53]


  • I touch the future. I teach.[54]
  • No teacher has ever been better prepared to teach a lesson.[55]
  • I have a vision of the world as a global village, a world without boundaries. Imagine a history teacher making history![12]
  • Reach for it, you know. Go push yourself as far as you can.[56]
  • What are we doing here? We're reaching for the stars.[57]
  • May your future be limited only by your dreams![58]


  1. ^ "Astronaut Biographies: Space Flight Participant". NASA/Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  2. ^ "Teachers in Space: A Chronology". Education Week. 1998-01-28. pp. Vol. 17, Issue 20, p.12. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Crew of the Challenger Shuttle Mission in 1986". NASA. 2004-10-22. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  4. ^ "OBITUARY: Edward C. Corrigan, Astronaut's Father, 67". The New York Times. 1990-01-28. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  5. ^ Corrigan 2000, p. 156
  6. ^ Corrigan 2000, p. 21
  7. ^ "20 Years Later...Remembering Lebanese American Astronaut Christa McAuliffe" (PDF). Lebanese Monthly Magazine. February 2006. p. 18, Volume 1, Issue 2. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  8. ^ Burgess & Corrigan 2000, pp. 6–7
  9. ^ a b Corrigan 2000, p. 40
  10. ^ Burgess & Corrigan 2000, p. 10
  11. ^ Burgess & Corrigan 2000, pp. 9–10
  12. ^ a b c "Christa McAuliffe 1948-1986". Framingham State College - Henry Whittemore Library. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  13. ^ Corrigan 2000, p. 123
  14. ^ a b c Staff writer (1986-01-28). "McAuliffe: Teacher on 'Ultimate Field Trip'". The Washington Post. p. A10. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  15. ^ Burgess & Corrigan 2000, pp. 15–16
  16. ^ "OBITUARY: The Shuttle Explosion, The Seven Who Perished in The Explosion of The Challenger". The New York Times. 1986-01-29. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  17. ^ a b "The Challenger Story:Teacher in Space". Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  18. ^ Ware, Susan; Stacy Lorraine Braukman, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2004). Notable American Women. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 425. ISBN 067401488X. 
  19. ^ Associated Press (2006-01-28). "On anniversary, some reflect on lessons learned". MSNBC. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  20. ^ Vaughan, Diane; American Council of Learned Societies (1996). The Challenger launch decision: risky technology, culture, and deviance at NASA. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. p. 16. ISBN 0226851761. 
  21. ^ "Chapter VIII: Pressures on the System". Report of the PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. NASA. 1986-06-06. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  22. ^ "Remarks at a Ceremony Honoring the 1983-1984 Winners in the Secondary School Recognition Program". The American Presidency Project. 1984-08-27. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  23. ^ a b c "SPACE SHUTTLE MISSION STS-51L Press Kit" (PDF). NASA. January 1986. pp. 22–25. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  24. ^ a b c Travis, Mark (2006-01-26). "An inspired choice for an extraordinary role". The Concord Monitor. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  25. ^ "Remarks of the Vice President Announcing the Winner of the Teacher in Space Project". The American Presidency Project. 1985-07-19. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  26. ^ a b c "Barbara Radding Morgan - NASA Astronaut biography". NASA. 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  27. ^ "Challenger's Lost Lessons". Space Educators’ Handbook – OMB/NASA Report #S677/Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  28. ^ Magnuson, Ed (2001-06-24). "They Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth to Touch". Time Magazine.,9171,143062,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  29. ^ Belman, Felice; Mike Pride (2001). The New Hampshire Century: Concord Monitor Profiles of One Hundred People Who Shaped It. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. p. 4. ISBN 1584650877. 
  30. ^ Kerwin, Joseph P. (1986). "Challenger crew cause and time of death". NASA. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  31. ^ Wright, John C.; Dale Kunkel; Marites Pinon; Aletha C. Huston (Spring 1989). "How Children Reacted to Televised Coverage of the Space Shuttle Disaster". Journal of Communication 39 (2): 27. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1989.tb01027.x. 
  32. ^ a b "Chapter IV: The Cause of the Accident". Report of the PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident. NASA. 1986-06-06. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  33. ^ "NASA Orbiter Fleet - Space Shuttle Overview: Endeavour (OV-105)". NASA/Kennedy Space Center. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  34. ^ Watson, Traci (2007-08-09). "Bittersweet triumph for first teacher in space". USA Today. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  35. ^ Hohler, Bob (1996-01-21). "MCAULIFFE'S LEGACY 'KEEPS US REACHING FOR THE STARS'". The Boston Globe. 
  36. ^ "ELLIOTT HAS COMPETITION IN DAYTONA 500". Philadelphia Daily News. 1986-02-15. p. 35, Sports. 
  37. ^ Tirrell-Wysocki, David (2009-03-31). "McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center honors New Hampshire astronauts". Associated Press/Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  38. ^ "Christa McAuliffe Scholars". 2006-2007 Undergraduate Catalog. Framingham State College. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  39. ^ "NASA to put probe to the test: New technologies to be tried in flight". The Washington Times. 1997-09-14. 
  40. ^ Burgess & Corrigan 2000, p. 103
  41. ^ "The Magellan Venus Explorer's Guide: Chapter 8 What's in a Name?". NASA JPL Publication 90-24. August 1990. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  42. ^ a b c "Then & Now: Grace Corrigan". CNN. 2005-08-15. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  43. ^ Kapos, Katherine (1990-12-02). "School Launches Jaunts to Outer Space". The Salt Lake Tribune. p. B3. 
  44. ^ "22nd Annual Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference". New Hampshire School Administrators Association. 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  45. ^ "Do You Know a Courageous Teacher?". University of Nebraska-Lincoln: College of Education and Human Sciences. 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  46. ^ "Christa McAuliffe Award". American Association of State Colleges and Universities . Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  47. ^ "Christa McAuliffe Reach for the Stars Award". National Council for the Social Studies . Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  48. ^ Saunders, Dusty (1990-02-25). "'CHALLENGER' Playing McAuliffe Provided Karen Allen with the Greatest Challenge of her Career". The Rocky Mountain News. 
  49. ^ Grahnke, Lon (1996-02-29). "2 New Series Fire Up Sci-Fi Shows Aim a Light Touch at Kids". The Chicago Sun-Times. p. 37. 
  50. ^ "CNN Presents: CHRISTA MCAULIFFE REACH FOR THE STARS". CNN. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  51. ^ "Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars - Press Coverage". Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars Official Website. Retrieved 2009-02-11. 
  52. ^ "Their families today". The Houston Chronicle. 1996. Retrieved 2009-01-10. 
  53. ^ "Congressional Space Medal of Honor". NASA History Division. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  54. ^ Burgess & Corrigan 2000, p. 93
  55. ^ Burgess & Corrigan 2000, p. 70
  56. ^ "Transcript - CNN Presents: CHRISTA MCAULIFFE REACH FOR THE STARS". CNN. 2006-01-22. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  57. ^ "Christa McAuliffe 1948-1986". Time Magazine. 1986-02-10.,9171,960597,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  58. ^ Drogin, Bob (1986-01-30). "New Hampshire Town Reeling From Shock, Grief". The Los Angeles Times. p. 1, National Desk. 


  • Burgess, Colin; Corrigan, Grace George (2000), Teacher in space : Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger legacy, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 0803261829 .
  • Corrigan, Grace George (2000), A Journal for Christa: Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, ISBN 0803264119 .

Further reading

  • Hohler, Robert T. (1986), I Touch the Future: The Story of Christa McAuliffe, New York, NY: Random House, ISBN 0394557212 .
  • Washington Post Staff (1986), Challengers: The Inspiring Life Stories of the Seven Brave Astronauts of Shuttle Mission 51-L, New York, NY: Pocket Books, ISBN 0671628976 .

External links



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