NASA astronaut Christa McAuliffe floating


NASA honors Christa McAuliffe with teacher’s legacy experiments

More than 30 years after her death, Christa McAuliffe's lessons are coming to life.


Samantha Grasso


Posted on Jan 27, 2018   Updated on May 22, 2021, 3:08 am CDT

More than 30 years after the space shuttle Challenger disaster resulted in the death of seven astronauts, Christa McAuliffe, the high school teacher aboard the mission who was the first American civilian selected to go into space, will finally be able to reach millions of students with her lessons and experiments.

NASA and the Challenger Center have teamed up to conduct several of McAuliffe’s lessons, which will be filmed aboard the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station, a program allowing astronaut educators in orbit to reach students across the country.

As part of the Challenger mission, McAuliffe had planned to use her demonstrations as a part of educational packages given to students and teachers internationally.

Astronauts Joe Acaba, who is currently aboard the station, and Ricky Arnold, who will take Acaba’s place in March, will lead the experiments as part of their “STEMonstrations” educational series. The Challenger Learning Center, an educational center honoring the Challenger crew with 43 locations across the U.S. and internationally (with one location in South Korea), will then share McAuliffe’s experiments across the centers, in classrooms, and on the center’s website beginning this spring.

According to NASA, McAuliffe’s lessons feature topics such as effervescence, chromatography, liquids in zero gravity, and Newton’s law, with some lessons being executed as McAuliffe intended, and others being reimagined with materials available on the International Space Station. Both Acaba and Arnold are former educators and will use the hashtag #TeacherOnBoard to share their love of STEM with students on Earth.

“Filming Christa McAuliffe’s lessons in orbit this year is an incredible way to honor and remember her and the Challenger crew,” Mike Kincaid, associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Education, said in a statement. “Developed with such care and expertise by Christa, the value these lessons will have as new tools available for educators to engage and inspire students in science, technology, education and math is what will continue to advance a true legacy of Challenger’s mission.”

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*First Published: Jan 27, 2018, 2:19 pm CST