Credit: Shutterstock/Christa McAuliffe

I touch the future. I teach

Christa McAuliffe was due to become the first teacher in space. She was chosen from amongst 11,000 applicants and received training with NASA but due to a tragic malfunction, the space shuttle she was aboard broke apart 73 seconds after launch.

People around the world had been watching the launch on live TV when Challenger exploded, killing Christa and the six other astronauts aboard. It was a devastating tragedy.

Born Sharon Christa Corrigan in Boston, Massachusetts, she was the eldest of five children. From a young age she was fascinated with space, sure that one day it would be accessible to everyone. She remarked to a friend after John Glenn orbited the earth in Friendship 7, “Do you realize that someday people will be going to the Moon? Maybe even taking a bus, and I want to do that!”

When Ronald Reagan announced the Teacher in Space Project in 1984, Christa applied straight away. She was among 11,000 applicants and after a rigorous selection process that cut the field down to 114 semi-finalists and then to 10 finalists, she was chosen for the project with fellow teacher Barbara Morgan chosen as her backup.

Despite the tragic events of the failed launch, Christa McAuliffe would inspire a generation and help promote interest in space travel and the sciences in young people around the globe. There are numerous educational and scientific institutions around the world that bear her name, as well as geographical features on the Moon and the surface of Venus.