For day 14 of our Women’s History Month celebration, we recognize: Christa McAuliffe!
Christa McAuliffe was the first American civilian chosen to go into space. Born on September 2, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts, McAuliffe had aspirations of traveling aboard the space shuttle. A graduate of Marian High School, she enrolled at Framingham State College where she earned her bachelor’s degree in American history and education. After graduating from Bowie State College in 1978 with a master’s degree in education, McAuliffe and her family moved to Concord, New Hampshire, where she began teaching at a high school. When the first space shuttle orbited the earth in 1981, McAuliffe made sure that her students took note of the historic event. Three years after the first space shuttle orbit, NASA, under President Ronald Reagan’s administration, announced the Teacher in Space Project, where they would select a teacher to take into space. McAuliffe, fulfilling a lifelong dream, jumped at the opportunity, and applied to the project. Beating over 11,000 applicants, McAuliffe won the contest, making her a hometown hero. In September 1985, McAuliffe was sent to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for training, and on January 28, 1986, McAuliffe boarded the Challenger space shuttle in Cape Canaveral. Tragically, 73 seconds into its flight, the Challenger broke apart killing McAuliffe as well as her crew members. As a tribute to McAuliffe, a planetarium in Concord was named in her honor, in addition to an asteroid and a moon crater. McAuliffe was also posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in addition to many more awards and tributes.