From the Archives: Remembering Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger disaster

teacher onboard NASA’s Challenger
Sharon Christa McAuliffe, STS-51L citizen observer/payload specialist, gets a preview of microgravity during a special flight aboard NASA's KC-135 zero gravity aircraft. NASA
teacher onboard NASA’s Challenger
Sharon Christa McAuliffe, STS-51L citizen observer/payload specialist, gets a preview of microgravity during a special flight aboard NASA's KC-135 zero gravity aircraft. NASA

From the Archives: Remembering Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger disaster

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On the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, school children around America tuned into a live broadcast of the launch of NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger. The space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launch, taking with it the lives of the seven crew members aboard. The explosion remains one of the most poignant moments in the collective memories of those who watched the launch.

Among the casualties was Christa McAuliffe, winner of the NASA Teacher in Space Project, who would have been the first civilian in space.

WBEZ’s Jim Nayder interviewed McAuliffe a year earlier. On the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, Aaron Freeman, host of Metropolis, spoke with Nayder about the experience of interviewing McAuliffe and played the original raw interview tape.

McAuliffe was excited and optimistic about her upcoming mission, speaking about the selection process for the Teacher in Space Project. What’s striking about hearing her voice today is her humbleness; her commitment to teaching, students and future lesson plans were her main concerns.

McAuliffe’s perspective on what she’s about to do serves in sharp contrast to the current moment, with space travel becoming a privatized luxury for the wealthiest in the world. Rather than focusing on the tragedy, her memory serves as a reminder to many of reaching beyond the possible for everyday people.

This interview originally aired on January 27, 1996 for the 10th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster.