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Christa McAuliffe

Astronaut / Educator

Born: 2 September 1948
Died: 28 January 1986 (spaceship explosion)
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts
Best known as: The teacher who died in the Challenger explosion

Name at birth: Sharon Christa Corrigan

Christa McAuliffe was a high school teacher from Concord, New Hampshire who died with six other astronauts in the 1986 explosion of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger. She was chosen as the first participant in the Teacher in Space Program created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1984. A native of Massachusetts, McAufliffe had been teaching for fifteen years when she applied for the program. She was selected in 1985 to be the first civilian in orbit (Californian Barbara Morgan was selected as her back-up). The shuttle blasted off on 28 January 1986 and exploded about 75 seconds after launch, killing everyone aboard. The explosion later was blamed on faulty booster rocket O-rings.

Extra credit: She married Steven McAuliffe in 1970; they had a son, Scott, and a daughter, Caroline... Other astronauts aboard the Challenger: Francis R. "Dick" Scobee (mission commander), Michael J. Smith, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik... The Challenger deaths were the first-ever fatalities during an American space flight, but in 1967 three astronauts were killed while training on the launch pad for the first Apollo mission: Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee... Another shuttle, Columbia, disintegrated while returning to Earth on February 1, 2003, killing all seven aboard.

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