Christa McAuliffe Day in New Hampshire Date in the current year: January 28, 2024

Christa McAuliffe Day in New Hampshire Christa McAuliffe Day is observed in New Hampshire on January 28 to honor the memory of a teacher and astronaut from Concord, New Hampshire who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Christa McAuliffe was born Sharon Christa Corrigan on September 2, 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Framingham State University (then Framingham State Collefe) in 1970 and obtained her first teaching position in Morningside, Maryland that same year.

In 1978, her husband Steven McAuliffe accepted a job as an assistant to the New Hampshire Attorney General, and the family moved to Concord, New Hampshire. There, Christa continued her career in education, teaching American history, English, and several courses related to social studies.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced a new NASA program, the Teacher in Space Project. It was designed to honor teachers, inspire students, and spur interest in space exploration and STEM. The project was supposed to carry teachers into space as trained non-astronaut civilians (payload specialists), who would then return to their classroom and share the experience with their students. McAuliffe was one of 11,000 teachers who sent their applications to NASA. Once the selection process was over, she was announced as one of 114 semi-finalists.

Following a conference for semi-finalists in Washington, D.C., McAuliffe became one of 10 finalists. After a series of medical examinations, interviews and briefings, she was selected as the first civilian to fly into space, and Barbra Morgan from McCall, Idaho was selected as her backup. They each took a leave of absence from teaching in order to train for the tenth Space Shuttle Challenger mission (STS-51-L).

Challenger was launched from the John F. Kennedy Space Center on January 28, 1986. It failed to achieve orbit and fell apart due to a structural failure 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven crew members, including McAuliffe and another payload specialist, Gregory B. Jarvis. After the disaster, the Teacher in Space Project was canceled, and the Space Shuttle program was put on hold for almost three years, during which NASA made numerous safety changes.

January 28 was designated as Christa McAuliffe Day by the governor of New Hampshire to honor the memory of Christa McAuliffe and the rest of the Challenger crew. It is one of the many ways that the state of New Hampshire recognizes her important and inspiring work; McAuliffe’s memory is honored through the work of several charities, foundations, learning centers, and scholarship programs.

Christa McAuliffe Day is not the only observance dedicated to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. NASA’s Day of Remembrance, which takes place on the last Thursday of January every year, is close to the anniversaries of three major disasters in NASA’s history: the 1967 Apollo 1 tragedy, the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. It was established to honor all deceased NASA astronauts and astronaut candidates.

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Christa McAuliffe Day, observances in New Hampshire, observances in the US, Teacher in Space Project, Challenger disaster