McAuliffeThe idea for taking teachers to space dates to when President Reagan created the Teacher in Space program to honor teachers and spur student interest in STEM. That program called for teachers to undergo a five-month training period, fly in space and return to the classroom so they could share their experience and excitement with students.

In 1984, after evaluating over 11,000 applications, Christa McAuliffe was selected to be the first teacher to fly, with Barbara Morgan as her backup.

In 1986 Christa McAuliffe died in the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Though at the time President Reagan promised that the Teacher in Space program would continue, Barbara Morgan did not fly until 1998, some 12 years later. By that time the idea that a teacher who flew in space would return to the classroom as a role model, and inspiration for students, had changed dramatically. As her Shuttle commander, Scott Kelly, told a journalist, “I don’t have a teacher as a crewmember. I have a crewmember who used to be a teacher”.

Our Teachers in Space project is created to fulfill the promise of the original program. We already offer teachers authentic astronaut training and real space science experiences combined with information and resources that they bring back to classrooms across America.

Most recently the project has added a new dimension. Sponsored by NASA, 2012 will be the second year that Teachers in Space offers summer workshops for teachers in suborbital astronautics, space medicine and suborbital flight experiments.

In a couple of years, when suborbital human spaceflight becomes available, teachers will fly into space during their summer break and immediately return to their classrooms as heroes and role models.