Barbara Morgan to Be Second Teacher in Space on STS-118

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Nearly sixteen years after teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe gave her life in pursuit of her profession, her back-up, "Educator Mission Specialist" Barbara Morgan has been assigned to pick up where Christa left off.

In opening the announcement ceremony today at the Maryland Science Museum, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe focused on the children in the audience saying "you are part of the first generation where there will always be men and women living in space. The crew members we will introduce today will be on a mission to help build the International Space Station" and their work will help prepare for "adventures to exciting places throughout the solar system."

"Last April I announced that NASA would make good on a promise to send an astronaut with an education background into space"O'Keefe said "That person is Barbara Morgan, a second third grade English and science teacher from Idaho - and a good astronaut as well. Her mission will be to take children on a mission of learning that only NASA can make possible. She will take her experience as a teacher and translate it for the rest of us. She has remarkable capacity as a teacher [that will allow her to translate this] in ways as close as possible as someone can do as to what the experience is actually like".

O'Keefe then formally announced that Morgan would fly as a mission specialist on STS-118. This 11-day mission to the International Space Station will be flown by Space Shuttle Columbia and will lift off on 13 November 2003. O'Keefe described this as "an opportunity of lifetime - not just for Barbara Morgan - but for all of us."

STS-118 Commander Scott Kelley noted that in addition to being an educator, that Barbara Morgan is also an astronaut with a full set of responsibilities during the mission. "This is going to be a busy time" he said. "She is likely to be Mission Specialist 1 during entry on the flight deck and will assist in the task of flying the orbiter."

According to O'Keefe when Morgan does take a break from regular astronaut duties she will "have the opportunity to help relate to us and students as an important mission goal - to inspire that generation of explorers." According to O'Keefe Morgan will interact with students in a variety of ways - on television, over the Internet, and in person.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) spoke next. She said "We all learn in different places - the classroom, a scout troop, in space. This is a day I have been waiting for 15 years. In the 1980s we embarked on program to send a teacher into space. A terrible tragedy ended that. But the dream continues to live on. Now, 15 years later, we will once again fulfill the dream to send a teacher into space. I am so proud of what NASA does. Its primary mission is discovery. NASA is committed to a civilian program in space. We share that information with the world - and do so free of charge."

Speaking of her mission Barbara Morgan said "NASA and teachers share the same mission - to explore, learn, and share. Teachers depend on NASA to inspire students and NASA needs teachers to do what teachers do best: teach and prepare our students to go on to do great things. I am thrilled to be flying and thrilled to fly as astronaut and as a teacher. I am also proud to help continue the first teacher in space mission by Christa McAuliffe and look forward to many other flights in the future."

Education is a prime focus of NASA's mission - and has received renewed and enhanced support by O'Keefe. As part of today's event, O'Keefe announced that astronaut Leland Melvin has been assigned to NASA Headquarters to assist Dr. Adena Williams Loston, Sean O'Keefe's Senior Advisor for Education. O'Keefe also hinted that there is more to come from the Educator Mission specialist program in January 2003.

Editor's note: Part of this announcement is the honoring of a commitment. Part of it is remembrance. And part of it is looking forward. Yet regardless of how you see it, it is long over due.

Related Links

  • 12 December 2002: Educator-Astronaut Barbara Morgan to Fly on STS-118

  • 18 May 2002: An Hour With Educator-Astronaut Barbara Morgan, SpaceRef


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