30 years after NASA’s Challenger disaster, Christa McAuliffe’s lessons will be taught in space



More than 30 years after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on its way to space, Christa McAuliffe’s lesson plans are finally going to finish the trip.

When the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after its Jan. 28, 1986 launch, McAuliffe perished along with the six other astronauts aboard. The 37-year-old social studies teacher from Boston was selected for NASA’s Teacher in Space Project. She was to fly into space as a civilian “Payload Specialist” and teach lessons from the confines of the Challenger.

McAuliffe never got to complete her mission, but now, three decades later, NASA aims to honor her. A collaboration between the federal space agency and the Challenger Center will see to it that the lessons McAuliffe prepared for her flight will be taught aboard the International Space Station later this year.

The lessons will be conducted by astronauts Joe Acaba, who is currently aboard the ISS, and Ricky Arnold, who launches in March. Both men will deliver the to-be-filmed lessons as part of a year-long NASA education initiative that started in September.

“Filming Christa McAuliffe’s lessons in orbit this year is an incredible way to honor and remember her and the Challenger crew,” said Mike Kincaid, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Office of Education in a statement. 

“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 science, technology, education and math is what will continue to advance a true legacy of Challenger’s mission.”

Acaba and Arnold, both former teachers themselves, will cover topics such as effervescence, chromatography, liquids in zero-g, and Newton’s law. Several of the lessons will stick to the exact plans McAuliffe originally prepared while a few others have been reimagined “based on materials aboard the ISS,” according to NASA.

The filmed lessons will be released on Challenger Center’s website starting this spring.

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