Astronauts teach "lost lessons" to honor Challenger Shuttle astronaut, Christa McAuliffe
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Christa McAuliffe was NASA’s first designated teacher in space. She had prepared lessons to record during her time aboard the space shuttle Challenger. But she never had the chance to carry out her plan. On January 28, 1986, the ship exploded. It was just 73 seconds into its flight. It killed McAuliffe. It also killed six other crew members on board.
Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold are two teachers-turned-astronauts. They will pay tribute to McAuliffe and her work. They plan to record these “lost lessons” while on the International Space Station. They plan to do this over the next several months. That's according to Marcia Dunn reporting for Associated Press.
McAuliffe taught history. She taught law. And she taught economics. She taught at Concord High School. It is in New Hampshire. She did this prior to joining NASA. She was part of President Reagan’s Teacher in Space program. That's according to Marina Koren reporting for The Atlantic.
“I will be filming lessons and trying to stay out of the way.” That's what McAuliffe said in a biography by Grace George Corrigan. “In fact, learning to avoid being a nuisance represents the biggest part of my training. I can look — but not touch!”
She prepared a mix of live performances and prerecorded lessons. They were intended to be released during the Challenger mission. Her “lost lessons” fell by the wayside during investigations and other research after the explosion. The recorded lessons and practice sessions were eventually released. Descriptions by a NASA educational specialist were also released. All are now hosted by the Challenger Center.
The astronauts announced their plans during a TV linkup with students. The students were at McAullife’s school. That school is Framingham State University. This is according to Dunn. The lessons will be recorded. Then they will be hosted online for the public. They will be hosted by the Challenger Center. That's according to Marquita Harris reporting for Refinery29.
Four of McAuliffe’s six lessons will be filmed. They will be modified. They will take advantage of equipment available on the space station. The lessons will cover effervescence (bubbles). They will cover chromatography (a chemical separation technique). They will cover liquids. And they will cover Newton’s laws of motion.
Acaba is currently on the space station. He will return to earth at the end of February. Arnold will be part of the replacement crew. They are launching in March. Both have a background in education. They taught middle and high school math and science. This was prior to their selection as educator-astronauts. That was in 2004. Acaba taught in Florida, Koren writes.
Arnold taught in Maryland. He taught in Morocco. He taught in Saudi Arabia. He taught in Indonesia. And he taught in Romania. NASA is calling the back-to-back mission by educator-astronauts a “Year of Education on Station.” The lost lessons will join short “STEMonstration” videos the duo are recording. They feature various scientific concepts.
Acaba is also completing an indirect tribute to McAuliffe. He is journaling his time in space. McAuliffe planned to keep a journal during her space shuttle mission, Dunn writes. They were asked by a student if they would do the same. Acaba revealed he’s been journaling throughout his 14-year astronaut career. “When I’m sitting on my porch sometime in the future, I’ll look back on all these great times.” That's what Acaba told the students.
McAuliffe’s backup for the Challenger mission was Idaho elementary school teacher Barbara Morgan. She became the first teacher in space twelve years later. This was during construction of the space station. Morgan is currently on the board of the Challenger Center honoring the McAuliffe and the rest of the crew.
If all goes smoothly, the lost lessons will be available online this spring.