(NOTE: The following is a fictionalized account of the 15 days in January 1986 leading up to the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster on the 28th of that month; however, the details of weather and NASA events are based on known historical data.)
Saturday, January 25, 1986
High Temp: 73° F Low Temp: 57° F
The launch of STS-51L is now scheduled for Monday. We were scheduled for a liftoff Sunday morning, but tomorrow’s weather is predicted to be as bad or worse than today’s, which was foggy until about noon. Hopefully, we can get Challenger off the ground on the 27th and then focus on Columbia’s next launch in March.
The seven astronauts going up with Challenger on Monday include our first teacher. The Teacher in Space Project was announced by President Ronald Reagan in the Fall of 1984. Last Summer Vice President George Bush announced that Sharon Christa McAuliffe was selected as the first Teacher in Space from 11,000 applicants. Christa teaches in Concord, New Hampshire and submitted her application on the last day they were being accepted.
Mrs. McAuliffe, as she is known in the classroom, has always dreamed of being part of the space program and is pleased to have the chance to take her classroom skills into space. Christa talked about the opportunity she has been given, saying:
Imagine me teaching from space, all over the world, touching so many people’s lives. That’s a teacher’s dream! I have a vision of the world as a global village, a world without boundaries. Imagine a history teacher making history!
In addition to Mrs. McAuliffe will be four members of the ‘Class of 1978.’ Commander Francis R.’Dick’ Scobee, Mission Specialists Ellison ‘El’ S. Onizuka, Judith ‘Judy’ A. Resnik, and Ronald ‘Ron’ E. McNair were all selected as astronaut candidates in January of 1978. The other two crew members are Pilot Michael J. Smith and Payload Specialist Gregory Jarvis.
Commander Dick Scobee noted the opportunity of the Teacher in Space Project when he said:
“My perception is the real significance of it, and especially a teacher, is that it will get people in this country, especially the young people, expecting to fly in space. That’s the best thing that can happen to our program. The short-term gain is a publicity gain. The long term gain is getting expectations of the young people in this country to the point where they expect to fly in space, they expect to go there, they expect this country to pursue a program that allows it to be in space permanently to work and live there, to explore the planets.”
The Teacher in Space Project is just one more part in keeping America a world leader by bringing space down to Earth. On Monday we will take the next step with the beginning of mission STS-51L…assuming the weather cooperates!