On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger launched with America’s first civilian to be sent into space, Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe was chosen from a list of over 11,000 applicants for NASA’s Teacher in Space Project, aimed at sending civilian educators into orbit to later relate their experience as astronauts to their terrestrial students. Tragically, Challenger was destroyed 73 seconds into her ascent, killing all seven crewmembers, including McAuliffe.
However, 32 years after the Challenger disaster, two astronauts have decided to honor McAuliffe by teaching the science lessons that she had planned to do from orbit during 1986’s STS-51-L mission. Starting on January 19, astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold will conduct these lessons for schoolchildren on Earth, including demonstrations on Newton’s laws of motion; effervescence, or the science of bubbles; chromatography, the separation of different gases or liquids; and how liquids act in microgravity.
"We are honored to have the opportunity to complete Christa’s lessons and share them with students and teachers around the world," says Lance Bush, president of the Challenger Center, a not-for-profit organization supporting science, technology, engineering and math education. The Challenger Center’s website will be hosting the recorded videos of the lessons, as part of NASA’s "Year of Education on Station" initiative.