More than 30 years after teacher-turned-astronaut Christa McAuliffe perished in the heartbreaking Challenger disaster, the world will now get a glimpse into what could have been.
In 1985 McAuliffe, then a teacher for Concord High School in New Hampshire, was selected to participate in NASA’s Teacher In Space Project. As part of her mission, she also planned to perform a few lesson plans. Unfortunately, her dream was never realized.
Now, two men Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold who are currently aboard the International Space Station will honor McAuliffe by performing those same lesson plans on their current mission in space. Both men are former educators specializing in middle school math and science, though Acaba is from Florida and Arnold is from Romania.
“It's been 32 years since we lost the Challenger crew. One of them, of course, was Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, so I can't think of a better time or a better place to make this announcement," said Joe Acaba, according to the Washington Post.
Had McAuliffe successfully made it to space she would have been the first teacher to do so. Among her lessons, she planned to explore Newton’s laws of motion and experiment with liquids in microgravity for school-aged children.
As for Acaba and Arnold’s plans, the pair plan on spreading out four of McAuliffe’s lessons over the span of several months. The men will film the plans, share the footage with the Challenger Center, who will post the videos online for the public.
"I would like to announce that Ricky Arnold and I, over the next several months, will be working with the Challenger Center to record several of Christa's original lesson plans that she was to do in space," said Acaba. "We are looking forward to sharing that with educators and students around the world."
On Jan. 28, 1986 McAuliffe lost her life alongside six other crew members after the space shuttle exploded a little more than one minute after liftoff. The tragic disaster was televised live and is responsible for a number of safety procedures now in place at NASA. Twelve years later McAuliffe’s backup woman, Barbara Morgan became the first teacher in space.