Remembering New Hampshire’s Christa McAuliffe on the Anniversary of the Challenger Explosion
January 28 is a sad day in the field of astronomy and one of remembrance for many in New England.
On January 28, 1986, the Challenger Shuttle exploded just two minutes after its ascent from ground zero at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to Biography.com. The spaceship, containing seven astronauts including New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, was about to make history as the first ship to bring a civilian into space.
Unfortunately, no one survived the explosion.
Who was Christa McAuliffe?
Christa was born on September 2, 1948 and grew up in Framingham, Massachusetts during the Space Age, according to Biography.com. She got her degree in American history and education from Framingham State College, and moved with her husband and child to New Hampshire in 1978 to teach at a Concord high school.
What makes Christa's story all the more heartbreaking is her reason for being aboard the Challenger in the first place.
Why Was Christa McAuliffe on the Challenger Space Shuttle?
In 1984, NASA introduced their Teacher in Space Project, according to Biography.com. The selected winner would make history as the "first private citizen passenger in the history of space flight", said President George H.W. Bush per the Biography website.
Christa ended up being selected from over 11,000 other applicants and underwent extensive training for the flight, according to Unionleader.com.
The newspaper stated that she hoped to use her time in orbit as an opportunity to educate her students.
What Happened to Christa McAuliffe on the Challenger Space Shuttle?
The Challenger's mission was initially delayed due to technical and weather problems, according to History.com. But on January 28th, 1986, millions turned on their TV screens to watch the spaceship finally take off.
Among those watching were Christa's husband, children, students, and the families and friends of the other six astronauts.
As the launch was broadcast live, the reporter provided updates...only to become dead silent as the ship exploded, shaking everyone to their core.
Just like that, the ship combusted and the astronauts' lives were cut short on live television.
Christa was 37 years old.
John Zarrella, the CNN reporter covering the launch, recalled "seeing the cloud of smoke and what looked like fireworks coming out from the vehicle," according to a CNN article from 2016.
Subsequent studies of the explosion revealed that a failed gasket, leak, and cold o-rings were all factors, according to Biography.com.
Remembering Christa McAuliffe After the Challenger Explosion
Christa posthumously received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and many buildings would go on to honor her name including a Concord planetarium and the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center at her alma mater, according to Biography.com.
The website states that an asteroid and moon crater even bear her name.
It's clear that all these years later and after such a tragedy, Christa McAuliffe will continue to be remembered and never forgotten.