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How old was the teacher on the Challenger?

It's been a tough week... but in tragedy one must keep moving forward and striving to find triumph. This day in history was the devastating Challenger tragedy. To be honest, I really didn't want another tough day, but the Challenger event was of such magnitude that everything else I thought about painting didn't seem right. As if I choosing something else was somehow casting aside the importance of the Challenger and it's crew.

Today's Daily Doodle is meant to inspire you. To remind you about a teacher who dreamed of space and overcame the odds to be selected above the 11,000+ applicants for the first civilian to go into space as part of Reagan and NASA's Teach in Space Project.

Sharon Christa Corrigan was born on September 2, 1948. She was the oldest of 5 children born to Edward and Grace Corrigan. Christa graduated from Marian High School in 1966 and enrolled at Framingham State College, where she studied American history and education. She received a bachelor's degree in 1970, and married her high school sweetheart Steven McAuliffe.

Christa McAuliffe began her career as an educator, teaching American history and English to junior high school students in Maryland. In 1976, she and Steven welcomed their son, Scott. In 1978 Christa earned her master's degree in education. She began a teaching job at a high school in Concord, New Hampshire and gave birth to her daughter, Caroline.

In 1981, the first space shuttle circled Earth and McAuliffe made sure her students took note. Three years later, President Ronald Reagan and NASA announced a new program, the Teacher in Space Project. They were seeking an "ordinary" person (in fact an extremely gifted teacher) to boost their space program and gain public interest. There were over 11,000 applicants and after rounds of cuts and medical exams, McAuliffe was announced the winner and was going to be the "first private citizen passenger in the history of space flight" at the age of 36.

This would be the ultimate field trip for Christa and it would give her a chance to help students better understand space and how NASA worked. Her job would include keeping a three-part journal of her experiences: the first part describing the training she would go through, the second chronicling the details of the actual flight, and the third relating her feelings and experiences back on Earth. She also planned to keep a video record of her activities. McAuliffe was to teach at least two lessons while onboard the space shuttle to be simulcast to students around the world. After her return was to spend nine months traveling across the United States and lecturing to students.

Unfortunately, warning signs were ignored and 73 seconds after take off the space shuttle Challenger exploded and there were no survivors. In total, 7 people were lost: Teacher in Space Participant, Sharon "Christa" McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Gregory Jarvis, Mission Specialist, Judy Resnik, Commander Dick Scobee. Mission Specialist, Ronald McNair, Pilot, Michael Smith and Mission Specialist, Ellison Onizuka.

Though this tragedy was terrible, the Challenger had provided several milestones in space technology and was host to several cultural firsts in the space shuttle program. The first American female astronaut, Sally Ride, rode up on Challenger on STS-7 in June 1983.  The first black astronaut, Guion Bluford, reached space on STS-8. On STS-41G in 1984, two women — Ride and Kathryn Sullivan — flew on one mission for the first time — as well as the first Canadian, Marc Garneau.

The Challenger has also left an educational legacy: Members of the crews' families founded the Challenger Center for Space Science Education program, which brings students on simulated space missions.

Christa McAuliffe was a history teacher making history. Her childhood was filled with the space race and envy of the astronauts who eventually went to space and even landed on the moon. When the opportunity arose to become the first private citizen in space, she was ready, she persevered and in the end, she was selected for a dream position for her.

I'll leave you with a quote from Christa McAuliffe herself, "Reach for it. Push yourself as far as you can."

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