Christa McAuliffe was an American teacher, first civilian selected to go into space and was one of the seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
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”. Taking field trips and bringing in speakers were an important part of her teaching techniques.
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.
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.
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.