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Challenger Biographies: Christa McAuliffe

By Marty McDowell/NASA

Selected from among more than 11,000 applicants from the education profession for entrance into the astronaut ranks, Sharon Christa McAuliffe had been born on September 2, 1948, the oldest child of Edward and Grace Corrigan. Her father was at that time completing his sophomore year at Boston College, but not long thereafter he took a job as an assistant comptroller in a Boston department store and the family moved to the Boston suburb of Framingham. As a youth she registered excitement over the Apollo moon landing program, and wrote years later on her astronaut application form that "I watched the Space Age being born and I would like to participate."

McAuliffe attended Framingham State College in her hometown, graduating in 1970. A few weeks later she married her longstanding boyfriend, Steven McAuliffe, and they moved to the Washington, DC, metropolitan area so Steven could attend Georgetown Law School. She took a job teaching in the secondary schools, specializing in American history and social studies. They stayed in the Washington area for the next eight years, she teaching and completing an M.A. from Bowie State University, in Maryland. They moved to Concord, New Hampshire, in 1978 when Steven accepted a job as an assistant to the state attorney general. Christa took a teaching post at Concord High School in 1982, and in 1984 learned about NASA's efforts to locate an educator to fly on the Shuttle. The intent was to find a gifted teacher who could communicate with students from space.

NASA selected McAuliffe for this position in the summer of 1984 and in the fall she took a year-long leave of absence from teaching, during which time NASA would pay her salary, and trained for an early 1986 Shuttle mission. She had an immediate rapport with the media, and the teacher in space program received tremendous popular attention as a result. It is in part because of the excitement over McAuliffe's presence on the Challenger that the accident had such a significant impact on the nation.

Source: NASA.


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about Christa McAuliffe? Have you any compelling stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I didnt know much I was just born a couple weeks before the shuttle blew up but I have always looked up to Christa as my hero."


"I was working in a grocery store, when a man came in on Jan. 28, 1986 and said, "The space shuttle just exploded." Some of the other people in the store thought he was playing a cruel joke. I looked the man in the eyes and said, "Ya'll...he's not kidding." There were tears in his eyes as he looked at me, and all I could think about were Christa McAuliffe's family, friends, and all her "kids" (students) who were watching with proud anticipation. My heart still aches over their loss."


"I am just a kid but when i saw the space shuttle explode in the air i thought of what it would have felt like to be the kid of Christa McAuliffe. It has to be so terifing to have seen the space craft blow right before their eyes. I am writing this feedback to show my symphothy and others to those loved ones of Christa McAuliffe."


"On Jan, 28, 1986 I was just 11 years old. I had just come home for lunch and the TV was on. I remember the explosion pics playing on the television over and over again as I had just missed the launch. What an overwhelming feeling that was that day. Going back to school and seeing the grief on those teacher's faces. It was unbelievable. After that I collected anything I could get my hand's on. To this day my collection still sits in my hope chest and I have educated my 5 year old daughter Hayley about that tragic day. At this age now I am expanding my collection more and more everyday , and even though I live in Canada my dream is still to see a shuttle lift off. I will never forget our Fallen Heros."


Space References (Books):
Dickinson, Terence. Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. Firefly Books, 1998.
Greene, Brian. Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Vintage, 2000.
Hawking, Stephen. Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition. Bantam, 1996.
Hawking, Stephen. Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe. New Millenium, 2002.
Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell. Bantam, 2001.
Kaku, Michio. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps and the Tenth Dimension.
Kranz, Gene. Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. Berkley Pub Group, 2001.
Sagan, Carl; Druyan, Ann. Comet, Revised Edition. Ballantine, 1997
Sagan, Carl. Cosmos, Reissue Edition. Ballantine, 1993
Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Ballantine, 1997

Space References (Videos):
Cosmos. PBS, 2000.
Stephen Hawking's Universe. PBS, 1997.
Hyperspace. BBC, 2002.
Life Beyond Earth PBS, 1999.
The Planets
. BBC, 1999.
Understanding The Universe. A&E, 1996.


Sharon Christa McAuliffe

Courtesy of NASA

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