In the summer of 1985, Christa McAuliffe was preparing to fly aboard the space shuttle Challenger to become the first private citizen in space. McAuliffe had been selected from more than 11,400 applicants for the government’s Teacher in Space program. While in orbit, she planned to film science lessons that would be distributed to classrooms around the country after she returned.
McAuliffe was never able to carry out those plans. The 37-year-old social-studies teacher and her six crewmates were killed during liftoff at Cape Canaveral in Florida in 1986. But now, a pair of NASA astronauts are hoping to finish what McAuliffe started.
Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold will carry out some of McAuliffe’s original lesson plans on the International Space Station over the next several months. Acaba announced the news during a video call Friday with students at Framingham State University in Massachusetts, where McAuliffe graduated in 1970.
“We look forward to helping to inspire the next generation of explorers and educations,” Acaba said.
The astronauts will film four lessons: on effervescence, liquids in zero gravity, a laboratory technique called chromatography, and Newton’s laws, according to the Challenger Center, a nonprofit organization founded by the families of the astronauts who died in the shuttle accident. “Several of the lessons will be completed as originally planned by Christa and a few will be reimagined based on materials available aboard the ISS,” the organization said in a statement. The videos will be posted online in the spring.