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More than 20 years after the tragic explosion of Challenger, NASA realizes its goal of turning a shuttle mission into an orbiting classroom.
NASA and the shuttle Endeavour have more than the international space station in their sights as Barbara Morgan, a crew member who is also a teacher, carries an educational mission into space. After the space shuttle Endeavour launched into the clear blue sky on Aug. 8 and reached orbit with teacher-astronaut Barbara Morgan aboard, Mission Control announced that class was in session.
Morgan, zooming with the other crew members toward the international space station, was finally fulfilling the space program’s quest to send an educator into space–a dream that could have died in 1986 with the Challenger explosion that killed teacher Christa McAuliffe and six astronauts.
Once Endeavour was safely past the 73-second mark of the flight, the moment when Challenger exploded, Mission Control exclaimed that Morgan—McAuliffe’s backup for Challenger–was “racing toward space on the wings of a legacy.” Immediately after the shuttle reached orbit, Mission Control announced: “For Barbara Morgan and her crewmates, class is in session.”
By sending an educator into space, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration hopes to inspire students to become the next generation of scientists and explorers. Endeavour was scheduled to dock with the space station on Aug. 10, after astronauts spent a day checking for possible damage from debris shaken loose during the Aug. 8 launch.
Midway through the flight, Morgan will speak with students in Idaho, where she taught elementary classes before moving to Houston in 1998 to become the first teacher to train as a full-fledged astronaut. If the mission is extended from 11 days to 14 days as planned, thanks to a new station-to-shuttle power converter, she’ll also have a chance to answer questions from students in Virginia and Massachusetts. continue reading