Christa McAuliffe biography
Christa McAuliffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 2, 1948. A high school teacher, she became the first American civilian selected to go into space in 1985. After being selected by NASA in 1985, she trained at the Johnson Space Center. On January 28, 1986, McAuliffe boarded the Challenger space shuttle in Orlando, Florida. The shuttle exploded shortly after lift-off, killing everyone on board.
Born Sharon Christa Corrigan on September 2, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts, Christa McAuliffe made history in 1985, when she became the first civilian to go on a U.S. space mission. McAuliffe graduated from Marian High School in Framingham, Massachusetts, in 1966, and continued her studies at Framingham State College. There, she received a bachelor's degree in 1970, and married Steven McAuliffe soon after.
Around this time, McAuliffe began her career as an educator, teaching American history and English to junior high school students in Maryland. She earned a master's degree in education from Bowie State College in 1978. A short while after earning her degree, McAuliffe and her family moved to New Hampshire. There, she landed a teaching job at a high school in Concord.
Selected for Space Mission
McAuliffe was an extraordinary teacher with a dream of riding on the space shuttle. So when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced a contest to take a teacher into space, McAuliffe jumped at the chance and applied. She won the contest, beating out more than 11,000 other applicants. Vice President George H.W. Bush delivered the good news at a special ceremony at the White House: He said that McAuliffe was going to be the "first private citizen passenger in the history of space flight," according to a report in The New York Times.
After NASA announced that they had chosen McAuliffe to go into space, her whole community rallied behind her. McAuliffe saw the space mission as a chance to go on the ultimate field trip. She believed that by participating in the mission she could help students better understand space and how NASA works. She went to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for training in September 1985.
On January 28, 1986, McAuliffe's friends and family, including her two young children, anxiously watched and waited for the Challenger space shuttle to take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Florida. Shortly after lift-off, the shuttle exploded. Everyone aboard died, including McAuliffe.
A shocked nation mourned the passing of the seven crew members of the Challenger. President Ronald Reagan spoke of the crew as heroes shortly after the accident. "This America, which Abraham Lincoln called the last, best hope of man on Earth, was built on heroism and noble sacrifice. It was built by men and women like our seven star voyagers, who answered a call beyond duty, who gave more than was expected or required and who gave it little thought of worldly reward," Reagan stated. NASA spent months analyzing the incident, later determining that problems with the right solid rocket motor had been the primary cause of the disaster.
After her death, this courageous educator received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. As a tribute to her memory, a planetarium in Concord has been named after her as well as an asteroid and a crater on the moon. The Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center at Framingham State College was established to support teachers and offers science and mathematics programs.