For us children of the 80s, it was the first real day where we can look back and vividly remember where we were when we heard the news.
January 28, 1986.
It was just like any other school day. You may have been sitting there in English class when the principal walked in and whispered something in your teacher’s ear. What was going on? Was someone gonna get detention?
Some of us had to wait until we got home to see the coverage, and others of us were quickly hustled together with our classmates to watch it unfold before our eyes on the school’s TV.
Apparently something had happened to the Space Shuttle… the one that was carrying the first civilian into space, a 37-year-old teacher from New Hampshire named Christa McAuliffe.
Wait… did they just say that it exploded? How is that possible? It’s the Space Shuttle! It doesn’t explode!
But sure enough, it did.
Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ron McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Greg Jarvis, and Christa… all gone, just 73 seconds after liftoff.
A Boston native with a lifelong passion for space exploration, Christa became a Social Studies teacher at Concord High School in 1982, and when the Teacher in Space Project was announced in 1984, she submitted her application immediately. In July 1985, Vice President George Bush made the announcement. Christa McAuliffe was going to be on board the Space Shuttle Challenger when it lifted off in January.
While Christa never realized her dream of soaring among the stars, her story has inspired countless children (and adults). Dozens of schools across the country now bear her name, and the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord is one of the country’s premiere learning centers for children interested in space.
She was a true hero, not only for us 80s kids, but for the whole world.
We ♥ Christa McAuliffe.