Teacher eager to fly in space
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: April 16, 2002

  Morgan
Barbara Morgan. Photo: NASA
 
Teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan does not view her role on a shuttle flight in 2004 as the fulfillment of Christa McAuliffe's legacy. Instead, McAuliffe's backup said today, the flight will mark the first step in an ongoing education initiative to attract more students to math, science and engineering.

"I have been asked that question before, 'this will finally fulfill Christa's mission.' And I have to disagree with that because the job of education is never fulfilled," Morgan said. "Every year you have a new group of students, a new generation coming and there's no end point to education. Just like there's no end point to the universe or the kinds of things NASA's doing to explore that universe."

McAuliffe was selected as the first "Teacher in Space" in 1985, selected from more than 10,000 applicants. Morgan was named McAuliffe's backup and the two went through payload specialist training with the crew of mission 51L, the ill-fated final flight of the shuttle Challenger.

Following the Jan. 28, 1986, disaster that killed McAuliffe and her six crewmates, Morgan returned to her elementary school classroom in McCall, Idaho. But she never gave up her dream of flying in space and in 1998, former NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin announced that Morgan had been accepted as a full-time astronaut candidate.

She then went through a year of training and is now a flight-qualified, full-time astronaut.

But Goldin never named her to a specific mission. Then, on April 12, new NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe gave a speech at Syracuse University announcing a new initiative to recruit educator-astronauts and naming Morgan to a still-unspecified mission in 2004.

Unlike the one-shot Teacher in Space program of the Reagan administration, O'Keefe said the new initiative is "a long-term" program in which educator-astronauts will work to excite "this next generation of Americans toward the exploration, missions and tasks that we believe are so important to what NASA does."

"Fortunately we have among our important astronaut ranks someone who has worked her way through all of the initial training requirements and is immensely well qualified to take on the task of the first educator-mission specialist," he said.

"Barbara Morgan was an astronaut candidate in 1998, has worked her way through that successfully, is now in the advanced training efforts and we're looking forward to her first flight shortly after the completion of the core elements of the international space station."

Morgan thanked O'Keefe and said she was excited about finally getting her chance to fly in space. She said McAuliffe's mother, Grace Corrigan, also is "excited and happy and I'm glad for that."

"I know she's calling my mom and saying, 'don't let her do it,'" Morgan joked.

McAuliffe planned to teach two lessons from space aboard Challenger. Morgan's agenda is not yet set, but she said today lessons from space may not necessarily be part of her mission.

"My very first goal is to be a good crew member, part of a team and to help ensure the team meets the mission success," she said. "I have no idea what flight I'll be assigned to, but there will be particular objectives for that mission and my goal is to do the best job I can to be a member of the team to make sure that happens.

"My other goal is to learn as much as I can so I can bring that learning to students and teachers. And of course we'd like to involve as many students and teachers as we can."

Any potential lesson plans will depend on the mission "because it's the goals of the mission that are the most important and I don't particularly see a mission for education," Morgan said. "I see a mission that education is a very important part of.

"It may not be a lesson from space," she continued. "But it will definitely be something where teachers and students are connected and it will tie in with whatever's going on, the primary goals of the mission. One thing that I'm really excited about is ... what happens afterwards. That's what I'm looking forward to the most."

The space shuttle is a much safer spacecraft than it was at the time of the Challenger disaster. But the risks are still relatively high, with a 1-in-483 chance of a catastrophic failure during ascent. Morgan said today she's aware of the risk, but doesn't dwell on it.

"NASA is very concerned about safety and it's No. 1 in everything we do," she said. "And yes, it is risky business. But you do everything you can in your training, in the design, in the testing and in the multiple reviews that go on to minimize those risks.

"My personal feeling about risks is that as teachers, we encourage students to take risks in our classroom. If you don't risk a little bit, you're not going anywhere. ... What we want them to see is people taking justified risks and not risk for risk's sake.

"When you decide to come do something like this, you look at the pros, you look at the cons, you decide is what you're doing important and if it's important, it's worth doing. And I can't think of anything more important than our children and their future and the exploration of the universe. Once you make that decision, you do exactly what all the astronauts do, go forward with a happy heart and you don't dwell on risk. You train for it, you prepare for it but you don't dwell on it."

And with that, Morgan went to work, walking over to the space station mission control center for her shift as a CAPCOM, relaying instructions and comments to the astronauts aboard the international space station. She gave O'Keefe a bit of on-the-job training at her console before settling in for another long day.

Apollo 11 special patch
Special collectors' patch marking the 35th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing is now available.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Inside Apollo mission control
An insider's view of how Apollo flight controllers operated and just what they faced when events were crucial.
 Choose your store:
U.S.

The ultimate Apollo 11 DVD
This exceptional chronicle of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission features new digital transfers of film and television coverage unmatched by any other.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Next ISS crew
Own a little piece of history with this official patch for the International Space Station's Expedition 11 crew. We'll ship yours today!
 Choose your store:
U.S.

Gemini 7
Gemini 7: The NASA Mission Reports covers this 14-day mission by Borman and Lovell as they demonstrated some of the more essential facts of space flight. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo patches
The Apollo Patch Collection: Includes all 12 Apollo mission patches plus the Apollo Program Patch. Save over 20% off the Individual price.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars Rover mission patch
A mission patch featuring NASA's Mars Exploration Rover is available from our online.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo 9 DVD
On the road to the moon, the mission of Apollo 9 stands as an important gateway in experience and procedures. This 2-DVD collection presents the crucial mission on the voyage to the moon.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

The Unbroken Chain
Guenter Wendt's autobiography, The Unbroken Chain, is a ground-shaking, fumes in your nostrils account of the glory days of manned spaceflight.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

John Glenn Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The historic first orbital flight by an American is marked by this commemorative patch for John Glenn and Friendship 7.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is available in our store. Get this piece of history!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Celebrate the shuttle program

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

This special commemorative patch marks the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle Program. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Anniversary Shuttle Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

This embroidered patch commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Program. The design features the space shuttle Columbia's historic maiden flight of April 12, 1981.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Mercury anniversary

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!


Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alan Shephard's historic Mercury mission with this collectors' item, the official commemorative embroidered patch.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Hubble Posters
Stunning posters featuring images from the Hubble Space Telescope and world-renowned astrophotographer David Malin are now available from the Astronomy Now Store.
 U.S. STORE
 U.K. & WORLDWIDE STORE

Get e-mail updates
Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop (privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose).
Enter your e-mail address:

INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE

ADVERTISE

© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.