More than three decades after New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe was killed in the Challenger explosion, the lessons she had planned to give during the mission will be made available to the public, thanks to a partnership between NASA and a nonprofit.
In a statement Friday, the Challenger Center, a group created by the victims’ families to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, said it will collaborate with NASA to film the lessons over the next several months on board the International Space Station with astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold.
Lesson topics will include effervescence, chromatography, liquids in zero-g, and Newton’s law, the statement said. The lessons will be released in the spring on the center’s website, www.challenger.org.
McAuliffe and six other crew members were killed in the blast on Jan. 28, 1986, less than 80 seconds after the Challenger lifted off from its launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
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Several lessons will be completed as McAuliffe, a Framingham State graduate who taught at Concord High School in New Hampshire, had originally intended, while others will be retooled with materials available on board the space station, the group said.
“We are thrilled to work with NASA’s educator astronauts to bring Christa’s lessons to life,” said Lance Bush, the Challenger Center’s president and chief executive, in the release. “For more than 30 years, we have continued the mission of the Challenger crew, reaching more than 5 million students with our hands-on STEM programs. We are honored to have the opportunity to complete Christa’s lessons and share them with students and teachers around the world.”
His words were echoed by Mike Kincaid, associate administrator of NASA’s Office of Education.
“Filming Christa McAuliffe’s lessons in orbit this year is an incredible way to honor and remember her and the Challenger crew,” Kincaid said in the release. “Developed with such care and expertise by Christa, the value these lessons will have as new tools available for educators to engage and inspire students in STEM is what will continue to advance a true legacy of Challenger’s mission.”
Earlier Friday, the initiative was formally unveiled at Framingham State University during an event hosted by the Challenger Center and the university’s McAuliffe Center.
Acaba said during the event that he was thrilled to be teaching some of McAuliffe’s lessons.
“I can think of no better place to make this announcement than at Christa’s alma mater, Framingham State,” Acaba said, according to the university’s Twitter feed.
McAuliffe made national headlines in 1985 when she was chosen from a field of thousands of applicants to be the first teacher and private citizen in space, according to the center and Globe archives.Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.
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Christa McAuliffe's lost lessons are finally getting taught in space.
Thirty-two years after the Challenger disaster, a pair of teachers turned astronauts will pay tribute to McAuliffe by carrying out her science classes on the International Space Station.
As NASA's first designated teacher in space, McAuliffe was going to experiment with fluids and demonstrate Newton's laws of motion for schoolchildren. She never made it to orbit: She and six crewmates were killed during liftoff of space shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.
Astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold will perform some of McAuliffe's lessons over the next several months. Acaba shared the news during a TV linkup Friday with students at her alma mater, Framingham State University near Boston.
"I can't think of a better time or a better place to make this announcement," Acaba said. He and Arnold "look forward to helping to inspire the next generation of explorers and educators."
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.
The center's president, Lance Bush, said he's thrilled "to bring Christa's lessons to life."
"We are honored to have the opportunity to complete Christa's lessons and share them with students and teachers around the world," Bush said in a statement.
On Friday, he thanked Acaba, who along with two station crewmates fielded questions from Framingham State students about life in space.
NASA's associate administrator for education, Mike Kincaid, said the lessons are "an incredible way to honor and remember" McAuliffe as well as the entire Challenger crew.
Four of the six lessons that McAuliffe planned to videotape during her space flight will be done. A few will be altered to take advantage of what's available aboard the space station.
The lessons should be available online beginning this spring.
Acaba returns to Earth at the end of February. Arnold flies up in March. NASA is billing their back-to-back missions as "A Year of Education on Station."
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.
McAuliffe was teaching history, law and economics at Concord High School in New Hampshire when she was selected as the primary candidate for NASA's teacher in space project in 1985.
Her backup, Barbara Morgan, is on the Challenger Center's board of directors. Morgan was NASA's first educator-astronaut, flying on shuttle Endeavour in 2007 and helping to build the space station.
McAuliffe planned to keep a journal during her space shuttle mission, and one college student asked if the astronauts were doing the same. Acaba said he's been making entries in a leather-bound journal during his 14 years as an astronaut. He writes in it every night before he goes to sleep on the space station.
"When I'm sitting on my porch sometime in the future, I'll look back on all these great times," Acaba said.
Explore further:Shuttle crew includes Challenger alternate
More information: NASA: tinyurl.com/yearofeducation
Challenger Center: www.challenger.org/
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