Christa McAuliffe Biography

Christa McAuliffe was born on September 2, 1948. The Boston, Massachusetts native was given the birth name Sharon Christa, but preferred Christa and used that from a very young age. Her substitute teacher mother inspired her to try teaching and being around her four younger brothers and sisters influenced her choice to work with children.

The family moved to nearby Framingham when she was fairly young and even as a young child she loved the idea of space. A friend of the hero told reporters that as a teenager the woman claimed that she wanted to be one of the people who made it to the moon. After leaving high school though she decided to study education at Framingham State College. Not long after graduating she married Steven McAuliffe, her high school sweetheart.

She taught history in the Washington DC area while her husband worked his way through law school and became a mother twice over. McAuliffe used public speaking frequently in her classroom and loved teaching her kids about history by taking them on field trips around the area. Those skills would serve her well later.

The Teacher in Space Project began in 1984 and Christa was intrigued by the idea. NASA wanted to find a normal person to send into space, but in particular they wanted a teacher. They planned on finding a teacher that would give lessons while orbiting the Earth. NASA had already received over 11,500 applications when McAuliffe submitted hers. They chose her in part because she didn't want to be just another astronaut, but because she wanted to be a teacher first. NASA also stated that they chose her because she was excited about the program, but also balanced with a calm demeanor.

In 1985 McAuliffe was selected for the mission and left her teaching job. She had plans to host two special lessons from space. The first was known as The Ultimate Field Trip and would give students an inside look at the shuttle. The other was Where We've Been, Where We're Going, Why and would discuss space travel. NASA planned on using closed circuit televisions to broadcast the shows to televisions in schools across the country. She also planned on offering other classes that focused on experiments.

After undergoing extensive training, McAuliffe was ready for the flight. She stepped onto the shuttle on January 28, 1986 as kids across the country watched from their schools. Only 73 seconds after the shuttle took off, it exploded and all seven people onboard were killed. The event was watched live by millions of people. McAuliffe was buried near her home in New Hampshire and the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, New Hampshire was named in her honor. The runner up to her in the program, Barbara Morgan eventually went into space on her own.

McAuliffe left behind a strong legacy because so many people loved her. She was an ordinary, working person who was living her dream and it made others believe that they too could reach their dreams. NASA was so enthusiastic about the Teacher in Space program that they broadcast the shuttle live. Schools hosted special events, taking their kids out of class just to watch the event and many more watched the event at home. When the Challenger exploded, it was almost like the dreams of the American public died too. She's been gone over twenty years, but her legacy remains.

McAuliffe left impacted many people not by being the first teacher in space but by being an influencial teacher always striving for more. If you have always thought about, or want to change your career path it's never to late. Becoming a teacher can be done while juggling life through distance learning programs. It is never to late or hard to obtain your dreams like Christa McAuliffe did.

Published: 2010-01-20