In 1984, when Ronald Regan announced that the first citizen to go to space would be “one of America’s finest: a teacher,” Christa McAuliffe was teaching social studies at Concord High School. She was one of the 11,500 applicants reviewed by NASA, but after rigorous tests and examinations, she was chosen to be the first teacher to fly into space.
On her application to NASA Christa wrote, “I watched the Space Age begin and I would like to participate.” With a teacher making the journey into space, NASA hoped to revive public interest in the space program, an interest that had never faded from Christa’s own thoughts. Space-bound and ready to teach the first lessons from the skies, Christa was an example for teachers, children, and hopeful dreamers all across the United States.
Christa’s passion continues to be an inspiration to incoming students at FSU, not only those attending the University, many with the hope of becoming teachers in the future, but also the visitors who stop by to experience the possibilities of space travel and the thrills of science at the Christa McAuliffe Center
Here at Framingham State University, the Christa McAuliffe collection in the Archives and Special Collections, donated by Christa’s mother, Grace Corrigan, also remains a great source of motivation for students and researchers.
The majority of the collection features photographs and a large number of personal letters; many of these letters were written to the family of Christa McAuliffe with thoughts of sympathy and concern following the 1986 Space Challenger tragedy. The collection also features information collected from the McAuliffe center regarding the work they have been conducting for the past 21 years.
A few other letters amongst the collection were written by Christa herself; in one such letter, a young Christa writes about a visit to the Boston Museum of Science. The highlight of this trip involved a show at the planetarium; as the lights went off, “suddenly the stars and the moon came out.” With her eyes turned skyward, Christa was ready for adventures in space.
The McAuliffe Center, dedicated to keeping Christa’s memory and goals alive, as well as the collection here at FSU, reveal the immediate and lasting impact of Christa’s passionate dedication to teaching and lifelong learning. As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Space Challenger disaster this week, and celebrate Christa’s personal goals driven by her own message that “we all have to dream,” we learn by her example that there are greater possibilities made by taking risks and looking forward.
Written by Rebecca Waitt
English Intern 2016