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Bloody NASA

This article just really annoys me.  I think the idea of a kids competition to make a pennant is great and so's the prize (seeds that have been in space and a space day for their school with a speaker from NASA).  What's annoying is the bit quoted below is the bit being repeated in other blogs and suchlike. 


"In partnership with Mad Science and AOL's Kids Service KOL, NASA is hosting a contest for 6 to 12 year olds to create pennants that celebrate either of two themes: the upcoming STS-118 shuttle mission including the flight of the first educator astronaut Barbara Morgan or the Vision for Space Exploration, NASA's plans to send humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond."

It feels to me like they're totally dismissing the flight and crew of the STS 51-L Challenger.  Commander Francis R. Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair and Payload Specialists Gregory B. Jarvis and Sharon Christa McAuliffe.  To me Educator Astronaut = Teacher in Space and in my mind Christa McAuliffe will always be the first teacher in space.  It wasn't her fault they didn't make it to orbit.

The real shame is that it's taken them 21 years to put another teacher in a shuttle.  At least Morgan was the original backup to McAuliffe.  I'm glad she's finally getting her chance to fly and I really do wish the crew of STS-118 the best of flights and a successful mission.  It's their press officer I want words with...


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
18th Mar, 2007 01:49 (UTC)
Educator astronaut vs. Teacher in space
Hi, I am the author of the article you linked to on collectSPACE. Later to the quote you cited, I qualified the difference between McAuliffe and Morgan: "Currently targeted for July, the mission's crew includes Barbara Morgan, the former back up to Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe and the first educator mission specialist."

"Educator astronaut", as used today by NASA, refers to a program under which teachers can be accepted as full-time astronauts alongside engineers, doctors and scientists. In other words, they leave their jobs as teachers and become professional astronauts. They are trained just as anyone else on their crew and have mission responsibilities that extend beyond teaching from space.

When Christa McAuliffe was chosen to fly, she was a payload specialist -- she retained her job as a teacher (she took a leave of absence to train and fly) and was only expected to carry out her lessons during Challenger's planned flight. She received basic training needed to live on-board the shuttle, but wasn't tasked with conducting a spacewalk or, as Morgan is on STS-118, taking control of the shuttle's robotic arm.

Thus "Teacher in Space" is different in definition than "Educator astronaut".

There was absolutely no intention to slight Christa McAuliffe, for whom I personally have a great deal of respect.

Robert Pearlman, Editor
collectSPACE - The Source for Space History & Artifacts
19th Mar, 2007 11:30 (UTC)
Re: Educator astronaut vs. Teacher in space
Thanks for the clarification. I didn't realize that there was that much difference in the level and type of training that Barbara Morgan had been through compared to Christa McAuliffe. I think my irritation was fueled more by the way it was being reported on other sites, though looking back to the link on BoingBoing I may just have been having a bad day. I'm sorry if I offended you.

The Challenger explosion is a moment of time I feel very strongly about. I was just short of 19 when it happened and had dreamed of going into space since I was about 6, probably inspired by the Skylab missions. The idea of civilians getting to go to space had fired those dreams again since I now saw a route that didn't involve the military. Watching the shuttle die hurt me deeply as I knew that would also put the idea of civilian astronauts right back out of play for many years. Even to this day watching that film brings a lump to my throat.

As it is now I know I will never go into space. I was in a bad accident a year after Challenger which left me in a position where I even have to avoid certain amusement park rides (spinal damage) but I'll never forget my dreams.

I've added your site to my regular bookmarks. It's made me realize that I'm not as well informed as I'd like to be on what's going on in space.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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