Sharon Christa McAuliffe was the first teacher to fly in space who has been selected from more than 11,000 applicants from the education profession for entrance into the astronaut ranks. McAuliffe was born on September 2nd 1948 and was the eldest child of her family. Her father was a student at the Boston College, but soon after he took up a job as an assistant comptroller in a Boston department store, the family had to move to the Boston suburb. From her youth days, Christa showed interest in the Apollo moon landing program.
Christa attended Framingham State College and graduated in 1970. After getting married, she and her husband Steven McAuliffe moved to Washington, metropolitan area so that Steven could attend Georgetown Law School. Christa took a job as a teacher in the secondary schools and specialized in American history and social studies. After staying at Washington for over eight years, she completed her M.A. from Bowie State University in Maryland. They then moved to New Hampshire in 1978 where Steven accepted a job as an assistant to the state attorney general and Christa took a teaching post at Concord High School in 1982.
Sharon was selected to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project and also the first teacher in space. As part of the mission, she was planning to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from the Space Shuttle.
In 1984, Christa learned about NASA's requirement to locate an educator to fly on the Shuttle. They wanted to find a gifted teacher who could communicate with students from space. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced the Teacher in Space Project, to encourage the citizens of America to show some interest in Space Shuttle program. The President also reminded the Americans how important is the role of Teacher and how the education serves in their country.
McAuliffe was selected by NASA for this position in 1984 upon which she took a year-long leave of absence from teaching. During this time, NASA would pay her salary and trained her for an early 1986 Shuttle mission. She had a quick briefing with the media and the teacher in space program received tremendous popularity and attention.
On January 28th 1986, Christa McAuliffe and 6 other astronauts dies as their space shuttle “Challenger” exploded just 73 seconds in its take off.
After her death schools and scholarships were named to honor her. In 2004 she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
Christa McAuliffe Day is celebrated on January 28th since that was the day when the incident took place where in 7 lives including Christs McAuliffe were lost. It is a day of remembrance for what she stood for and how she never thought twice to go on with the challenge. On this day, people pay their respect and tribute to McAuliffe. There are scholarships and few universities that are named after her as well.