Who was Crista McAuliffe? Trump proposes first teacher in space for statue 34 years after tragic Challenger crash

McAuliffe, who was teaching as a social studies teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire in 1983, was selected for the project in 1985, from over 11,000 applicants


                            Who was Crista McAuliffe? Trump proposes first teacher in space for statue 34 years after tragic Challenger crash
Sharon Christa McAuliffe (Getty Images)
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On the eve of America's 244th birthday, President Donald Trump took the stage at Mount Rushmore's Independence Day celebrations. Addressing the massive crowd of supporters, Trump slammed the far left and the recent vandalizing of statues of American heroes, claiming he will build a National Garden of American Heroes filled with their statues. While the line-up for these statues includes some outrageous names, Trump also mentioned the likes of Christa McAuliffe — whose illustrious career as a teacher and an astronaut was met with a tragic fatal disaster.

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Since then, McAuliffe has been a celebrated hero for being the first teacher in space. And now is as good a time as any to remind people of her inspiring life. Originally from Concord, New Hampshire, McAuliffe was 38 when she and six other crew members were killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. On Tuesday, January 28, 1986, the shuttle McAuliffe was onboard, broke apart just 73 seconds into its flight, killing everyone inside.

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The crew consisted of five NASA astronauts, one payload specialist, and Mcauliffe — a civilian schoolteacher. History documents approximately 17 percent of the American population witnessed this launch on live television, and all of the credit goes to McAuliffe. Her then-upcoming title of becoming the first teacher in space had won hearts across the nation and America was glued to the screen both during the launch and following its tragic crash.

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Christa McAuliffe and Barbara Morgan pose for a portrait in this undated file photo (Getty Images)

The disintegration of the spacecraft happened after a joint in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff, and it crashed over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. And while the time of death of the crew is unknown, several crew members are known to have survived the initial breakup of the craft. This led to a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program, and the formation of the Rogers Commission, whose internal investigation found NASA guilty of violating its own safety rules.

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Space Shuttle Challenger crew members gather for an official portrait on November 11, 1985 in an unspecified location. (Back, L-R) Mission Specialist Ellison S. Onizuka, Teacher-in-Space participant Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist Greg Jarvis and mission specialist Judy Resnick. (Front, L-R) Pilot Mike Smith, commander Dick Scobee and mission specialist Ron McNair (Getty Images)

McAuliffe, who was teaching as a social studies teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire in 1983, was selected for the project in 1985, from more than 11,000 applicants. As a member of mission STS-51-L, her participation would include conducting experiments and teaching all of two lessons from space. Sadly, civilians' dreams of seeing one among them teach in space didn't come true that fateful time. However, McAuliffe's prosperity continued even after death, as schools and scholarships were named in her honor. In 2004, 18 years after her sad demise, McAuliffe was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

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While the shuttle disaster has since also been used as a case study in many expert types of research and discussions of engineering safety and workplace ethics, one can't help but muse if its striking ability to have touched so many hearts was solely because of McAuliffe's involvement.

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