article by Ashlyn Weatherly
January 28, 1986 was a day for the history books! Christa McAuliffe was a junior high school history teacher in Maryland, and the first American civilian selected to be launched into outer space. Although the spacecraft exploded merely 73 seconds after leaving the launchpad, Christa McAuliffe is still remembered today for her bravery and contribution to United States’ Research on Outer Space.
Christa was born on September 2, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. Christa was the oldest of five children. When she was five, her family moved to Framingham, Massachusetts. She was a very quiet child and she was also very adventurous. After graduating Marian High School in 1966, Christa was accepted into Framingham State College, where she studied history and education. After receiving her bachelors in 1970, she was soon married to Steve McAuliffe, who she met in high school. She soon began her career as an educator, as an American History and English junior high teacher in Maryland. However, six years later she had a son, Scott McAuliffe. Two years after having her son, she received her Masters degree from Bowie State College. Then she moved her family to New Hampshire where she accepted a position as a high school teacher. She later gave birth to her second child, Caroline. She was just a typical loving mother and good civilian.
Christa took great pride in space research. For example, in 1981 she and her students watched the first space shuttle orbit the earth. When president Ronald Reagan introduced the Teacher in Space Project, she took great interest. When NASA announced that there was a competition to decide who would be selected to be the lucky individual, Christa jumped at the opportunity. She was selected out of over 11,000 applicants. She embraced the opportunity in a heartbeat for she believed that her experience in space would help her students further understand the importance and significance of space travel. Although she was happy to be a part of the project, she struggled to leave her family for training.
The Challenger was scheduled to launch on January 22, however it was delayed for several different issues (a dust storm at the emergency landing area, inclement weather, door latch problem, etc). It officially left Earth’s surface on the twenty-eighth. Not only did her family and friends watch the ship launch into space, but school children all over the country sat in classrooms excitedly waiting for take off and to witness a teacher making history. Unfortunately, the shuttle exploded less than two minutes after take off, killing all seven passengers on board. The nation was left stunned and mourned the loss of the crew. NASA dedicated time to researching the cause of the explosion. After months of investigation, they determined that it was the right rocket booster responsible for the catastrophe. A gasket had failed, and affected the O-rings which caused a leak, igniting the fuel supply.
Christa McAuliffe left behind a legacy. After her death, she was awarded the the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. In addition, to receiving this medal, her hometown named a local planetarium in honor of her. Since then, an asteroid and crater on the moon have also been named in her honor. Firminham College also established a program, Christa Corrigan McAuliffe, to continue her legacy and support educational advancements. Christa McAuliffe’s story is a real story of BRAVERY!