Astronauts teach "lost lessons" to honor Challenger Shuttle astronaut, Christa McAuliffe
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, just 73 seconds into its flight, the ship exploded. It killed McAuliffe and 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 and law. She also taught economics. She taught at Concord High School in New Hampshire. She did this prior to joining NASA as 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, Koren writes. “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. After the explosion, her “lost lessons” fell by the wayside during investigations and other research. The recorded lessons and practice sessions were eventually released along with descriptions by a NASA educational specialist. 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 alma mater, Framingham State University, Dunn writes. The lessons will be recorded and hosted online for the public 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 to take advantage of equipment available on the space station. The lessons will cover effervescence (bubbles) and chromatography (a chemical separation technique). They will cover liquids and 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 launching in March. Both have a background in education. They taught middle and high school math and science prior to their selection as educator-astronauts. That was in 2004. Acaba taught in Florida, Koren writes.
Arnold taught in Maryland and Morocco. He taught in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. He also 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 that feature various scientific concepts.
Acaba is also completing an indirect tribute to McAuliffe by journaling his time in space. McAuliffe planned to keep a journal during her space shuttle mission, Dunn writes. When 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,” 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 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.