Sunday, August 05, 2007

NASA set to fly teacher, 21 years after Challenger

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A teacher who walked out of the classroom she loved a decade ago to join the U.S. astronaut corps is scheduled to fly aboard the space shuttle Endeavour this week on a mission to the International Space Station.

NASA plans to launch Endeavour on Wednesday on a construction and resupply mission to the orbiting outpost.

The ship's cargo bay holds a short piece of the station's structural beam, a replacement gyroscope needed to keep the growing complex properly positioned in orbit, an outdoor equipment storage platform and a cargo container filled with gear for the resident crew.

But the focus of the flight, which will be the 119th for the shuttle program, falls on a petite 55-year-old crew member named Barbara Morgan, a teacher who taught school in McCall, Idaho, until joining the astronaut corps 10 years ago.

Morgan wasn't a newcomer to NASA, having trained in 1985 alongside "Teacher in Space" Christa McAuliffe, who flew with the Challenger crew in January 1986.

McAuliffe's mission ended in tragedy 73 seconds after liftoff when one of the shuttle's booster rockets failed, triggering an explosion that killed the New Hampshire high school teacher and six astronauts.

After the accident, NASA asked Morgan to serve as its Teacher in Space designee but failed to make good on its offer because a policy change imposed after the Challenger accident banned civilians from flying on the shuttle...

This from Reuters.

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