Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffe

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Christa McAuliffe was a civilian mission specialist aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle and died with the rest of the seven member crew when Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986.

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Christa McAuliffe was born Sharon Christa Corrigan on September 2, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. McAuliffe was the oldest of five children of Edward and Grace George Corrigan.

Christa McAuliffe graduated from Framington State College, Massachusetts, in 1970 with a degree in history. A dedicated junior high school teacher (she taught history, social studies and civics), Christa McAuliffe was also a volunteer with her church, a Girl Scout Leader and a hospital and YMCA fundraiser.


1970-1971 Benjamin Foulois Junior High School, Morningside, Maryland. Teacher. American history, 8th grade.

1971-1978 Thomas Johnson Junior High School, Lanham, Maryland. Teacher. English and American history, 8th grade and civics, 9th grade.

1978-1979 Rundlett Junior High School, Concord, New Hampshire. Teacher, 7th grade and American history, 8th grade.

1980-1982 Bow Memorial (Middle) School, Bow, New Hampshire. Teacher. Social Studies, 9th grade.

1982-1985 Concord High School, Concord, New Hampshire. Teacher. Courses in economics, law, American history, and a course she developed entitled “The American Woman,” 10th, 11th, and 12th grade.

NASA Teacher in Space Project

On August 27, 1984 President Reagan announced that a teacher would be chosen as the first US Private Citizen in Space. The applications ran from December 1, 1984 to February 1, 1985 and resulted in 114 nominees. A review of the group was accomplished in June 1985 and on July 1 Mc Auliffe was announced as one of 10 finalists in the programme.

Christa McAuliffe was selected as the primary candidate for the NASA Teacher in Space Project on July 19, 1985.

Christa McAuliffe was scheduled to teach two lessons from the space shuttle. She was part of the NASA Teacher in Space project, selected as its primary candidate in 1985. She won out over 11,500 applicants; NASA officials were reportedly especially impressed with her course on "The American Woman" which she had developed and taught. Barbara Morgan was the backup "Teacher in Space" who also trained with NASA in the astronaut training program.

Space Shuttle Challenger Tragedy

Christa McAuliffe was a payload specialist on STS 51-L which was launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 11:38:00 EST on January 28, 1986. The crew on board the Orbiter Challenger included the spacecraft commander, Mr. F.R. Scobee, the pilot, Commander M.J. Smith (USN), three mission specialists, Dr. R.E. McNair, Lieutenant Colonel E.S. Onizuka (USAF), and Dr. J.A. Resnik, and fellow civilian payload specialist, Mr. G.B. Jarvis. The STS 51-L crew died on January 28, 1986 when Challenger exploded after launch.

When Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff, millions of horrified schoolchildren and adults were watching from schools, homes and offices worldwide.
Her husband Steve and their two children, Scott and Caroline, survive her.

Christa McAuliffe's alma mater, Framingham State College, established an education center in her honour, the McAuliffe/Challenger Center.

Many schools and scholarships have been named in honour of Christa McAuliffe.

Did you know?

* Barbara Morgan, the back up "Teacher in Space" in 1985 became the first teacher in space in 2007.

 * The Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, New Hampshire and the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center in Pleasant Grove, Utah are named in her memory, as are asteroid 3352 McAuliffe and the McAuliffe crater on the Moon.


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Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014

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