By Teachers, For Teachers
For many people the tragedy was brought closer to home by the presence of a member of the public—a high school teacher named Christa McAuliffe—aboard the doomed flight. Today on TeachHUB, we remember Christa McAuliffe and all the remarkable people who were victims of the Challenger disaster.
Christa McAuliffe served as a civilian payload specialist on the Challenger’s final mission. She was the first person selected for the Teacher in Space Project (TISP) announced by Ronald Reagan in 1984. TISP’s goal was to find a civilian educator, not a pilot or scientist, and train him or her to join a space flight. McAuliffe beat out nearly 11,000 other applicants to become NASA’s choice for the mission. She told NASA, “I watched the Space Age being born, and I would like to participate.”
Over her 15-year career as a teacher, McAuliffe taught classes in American History, economics, law, and more at the high school and junior high school levels. She also developed her own course, entitled “The American Woman” for her high school students in Concord, New Hampshire. She left behind her husband, Steven, and two children.
Francis R. “Dick” Scobee was the commander of the Challenger during its final mission. He was a veteran of the United States Air Force, and went on to be a test pilot. Aside from his love of flying, he was athletic and creative, enjoying such varied pursuits as oil painting, racquetball, and motorcycling. He left behind his wife, June, and two children.
Michael J. Smith was the pilot of the Challenger during its final flight and also served as a pilot in the United States Navy, where he was highly-decorated. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Captain in recognition of his distinguished career. He also taught at the U.S. Navy test pilot school. He left behind his wife, Jane, and three children.
Ronald McNair was a mission specialist on the Challenger’s disastrous flight, and the second African American to go to space. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from MIT and became a research physicist specializing in lasers. Aside from being an astronaut and scientist, he was an award-winning martial artist (earning a 5th degree black belt in karate) and an accomplished jazz saxophonist. It was planned that he would compose the first original piece of music recorded in space on his Challenger mission. He left behind his wife, Cheryl, and two children.
Ellison Onizuka was a mission specialist on the Challenger and a decorated member of the U.S. Air Force. He served as a test pilot and a test flight engineer, and was posthumously promoted to the rank of colonel. He enjoyed outdoor activities such as running, hunting, and fishing. Onizuka was the first Asian-American to go to space. He left behind his wife, Lorna, and two children.
Judith A. Resnik was a mission specialist on the Challenger’s final flight, the second female American astronaut, and the first Jewish American to go into space. She earned her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland, and worked as a biomedical engineer at the National Institute of Health. She was also a classical pianist.
Gregory Jarvis was an engineer who served as a civilian payload specialist on the Challenger’s final mission. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he was the only member of the Challenger crew other than Christa McAuliffe who wasn’t a member of the NASA Astronaut Corps. He loved to play squash and ride bicycles, and he also played classical guitar. He left behind his wife, Marcia.
All photos provided by NASA.