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Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger Disaster: Still Mourning a Hero, 25 Years Later

Christa McAuliffe

Twenty-five years after the Challenger exploded, McAuliffe remains a trailblazer in the world of education

For a generation who wasn’t born when President Kennedy was assassinated, the space shuttle Challenger explosion is the first tragedy they can remember. Most adults who now have kids of their own can remember where they were when they were little and news of the disaster, which occurred only 73 seconds after liftoff, spread like wildfire. Because of McAuliffe’s presence on the shuttle, many schoolchildren watched it happen live in person and on TV. The cause of the accident was ultimately believed to be poorly designed O-rings.

While the story in and of itself was horrible, what seemed to make it worse was that Christa McAuliffe was among the seven victims. A beloved and revered Social Studies teacher and youth adviser from Concord, NH, McAuliffe had competed against other educators for the precious ticket into outer space.

McAuliffe’s husband, New Hampshire federal judge Steven McAuliffe, released a statement today:

“I know Christa would say that that is the most precious lesson – ordinary people can make extraordinary contributions when they remain true to themselves and enthusiastically pursue their own dreams wherever they may lead. Our family knows that generations of students and teachers will continue to share her love of learning and love of life, and will do great things for our world.”

It was in 1985 that McAuliffe beat out 11,000 other applicants in the NASA Teacher in Space project, in which she was meant to be the first educator in space. The plan was for her to conduct experiments and teacher lessons from aboard the Challenger. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in 2004.

The Teacher in Space project was created by NASA with the hope that public interest in the space program would increase and that the reliability of space flight would be demonstrated at a time when NASA was having difficulty obtaining funding. President Ronald Reagan also said the purpose was to remind Americans about the key role played by teachers in this country.

Of course, the sad irony is that by having McAuliffe aboard and then losing her, the importance of good teachers was felt probably even more strongly.

Today, NASA continues space exploration with an announcement just days ago about a new discovery — images of the earliest galaxy ever were found — by the Hubble Space Telescope. But perhaps one of the greatest legacies from the Challenger disaster is McAuliffe’s kids. Her son went on to graduate school in Marine Biology, and her daughter is now a teacher.

Where were you when the Challenger exploded?

Source: Fox News

Image: Wikipedia

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