In 1985, having been selected by NASA from a pool of thousands, 37-year-old social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe began preparations in an effort to become the first ‘teacher in space’. The project was the result of a very successful effort by the U.S. government to provoke wider public interest in the STS-51-L space program, and as such McAuliffe – already an incredibly affable character – was quickly thrust into the limelight and subsequently adored and supported by millions. Below is just one of many fan-mail responses McAuliffe wrote during the build-up; this particular example to a 14-year-old boy scout named Michael, eager to hear her thoughts on UFOs.
Tragically, on January 28th, 1986, as a worldwide audience of many millions looked on, McAuliffe and her six fellow crew members perished as Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart just 73 seconds after launch.
Teacher In Space Project
Reply to: AP
398 W. Cherry
Winchester, IL 62694
I am delighted that you took the time to write. You sound like a very busy person with all of your activities. When I was 14, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I was very, very active in scouting, just as you are.
I am excited about going into space on the Shuttle and I hope that people like you are going to be interested in space as perhaps a job opportunity later on in life. I have always been the type of person who figured out that perhaps we are not the only people around in space, so UFO’s have been something that I have been interested in.
Training at the Johnson Space Center here in Houston has been very exciting for me and I look forward to my Shuttle flight in January.
Enclosed is the photograph you requested, and thanks again for writing.
S. Christa McAuliffe
Oklahoma State University (Support Contractor)