Christa McAuliffe

Teacher in Space Payload Specialist

Sharon “Christa” Corrigan McAuliffe was born on September 2, 1948, in Framingham, Massachusetts. She earned a B.A. in history from Framingham State College in 1970, and in the same year, married Steven McAuliffe. They later had two children. In 1978, McAuliffe earned an M.A. in school administration from Bowie State College, a degree she completed while simultaneously teaching American history and social studies in secondary schools. 

In 1982, McAuliffe became a full-time teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire, where she taught classes in economics, law, American history, and a course she developed entitled, “The American Woman.” In 1984, McAuliffe learned of the Teacher in Space program when Ronald Regan announced NASA’s initiative for a teacher to become the first private citizen to fly into space aboard a space shuttle. The intent was to find a gifted educator who could communicate with students from space. Out of nearly 11,000 applicants, NASA selected McAuliffe in the summer of 1984.

In the fall of 1984, McAuliffe took a year-long leave of absence from teaching and trained for an early 1986 shuttle mission. She had an immediate rapport with the media, and the Teacher in Space program received tremendous popular attention as a result. The excitement over McAuliffe’s presence on the Challenger greatly contributed to the significant impact on the nation after the Challenger accident.

McAuliffe’s widower, Steven McAuliffe, was a Founding Director of Challenger Center and continues to serve on the Advisory Council.