Astronauts to pay tribute to Christa McAuliffe


Teacher turned astronaut Christa McAuliffe was tragically killed in 1986, at the start her first space mission aboard the Challenger space shuttle. She had planned to present a series of science lessons during the flight, but the plan was lost along with McAuliffe and her six crewmates, shortly after launch. Now, a pair of astronauts will finally show McAuliffe’s lessons to the world.

The demise of the space shuttle Challenger was a shock to the nation, not only due to the incomprehensible jarring of the televised explosion, but also because America had watched those 7 astronauts smiling and waving just before the ill-fated lift off. McAuliffe’s story had been celebrated by the press, and as NASA’s first designated teacher in space, she was looked up to as a particular hero and highlight of the mission.

The explosion that killed her and her six crewmates thirty-two years ago, on Jan. 28, 1986, prevented the world from experiencing the series of lessons McAuliffe had planned; experiments with fluids and demonstrating the laws of motion for schoolchildren.

Now, those lessons are planned to be filmed in space by a pair of teachers who, like McAuliffe, are now astronauts. The planned lessons are a tribute to McAuliffe, and will be conducted on the International Space Station. The New York Daily News reports:

Astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold will perform some of McAuliffe’s lessons over the next several months. Acaba planned to share the news during a TV linkup Friday with students at her alma mater, Framingham State University near Boston.

The two were teaching middle school math and science on opposite sides of the world — Acaba in Florida and Arnold in Romania — when NASA picked them as educator-astronauts in 2004. The idea to complete McAuliffe’s lesson plans came about last year.

Four lessons — on effervescence or bubbles, chromatography, liquids and Newton’s laws — will be filmed by Acaba and Arnold, then posted online by the Challenger Center, a not-for-profit organization supporting science, technology, engineering and math education.

Not all of McAuliffe’s six planned lessons will be filmed. The astronauts only plan to complete four, and some will be altered based on what they currently have available on the space station.

NASA’s associate administrator for education, Mike Kincaid, believes that carrying out the lessons is “an incredible way to honor and remember” McAuliffe and the entire Challenger crew.


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