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A Dream Come True

Teacher takes flight aboard space shuttle Endeavour

By Genet Berhane | null null , null
Teacher and astronaut Barbara R. Morgan at work on the space shuttle <i>Endeavour</i>. (Photo: Courtesy of NASA)<br />
Teacher and astronaut Barbara R. Morgan at work on the space shuttle Endeavour. (Photo: Courtesy of NASA)

It was a special moment for a teacher after her long wait to soar into space.

The space shuttle Endeavour, which lifted off last week, included in its crew Barbara Morgan—an elementary school teacher who waited 22 years to see her dream of space exploration come true.

"That's what defines teachers, perseverance and patience," Morgan, 55, told reporters during a preflight briefing. "So I am just doing the job of a teacher."

Morgan’s adventure began in 1985, with NASA’s Teacher in Space program. The Idaho educator was picked—from thousands of applicants—as the backup to Christa McAuliffe, the teacher selected to fly aboard the Challenger shuttle. Morgan trained with McAuliffe and the crew of the Challenger for six months before the launch.

On January 28, 1986, the Challenger launch ended in disaster when the shuttle exploded, killing McAuliffe and the rest of the crew. After the accident, Morgan returned to her Idaho elementary school classroom but remained involved with NASA as the designated “teacher-in-space.”

In 1998, Morgan was selected by NASA to become a mission specialist. This week, she is finally enjoying the view from space aboard the shuttle Endeavour.

According to Morgan, space exploration and teaching have a lot in common.“Astronauts and teachers learn and share; they explore; they discover; and then they go learn and share some more,” said Morgan, in a preflight interview. “That’s what this is all about.”

The Endeavour crew’s mission is to deliver supplies and continue assembly of the International Space Station (ISS). When the shuttle docked with the ISS on Friday, though, the crew discovered a small tear in the belly of the shuttle. A team is trying to determine if repairs are necessary before the shuttle attempts re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere.


“My career, or job, is in teaching,” Morgan told Scholastic News Online in 1999. “But I've always been interested in space—especially astronomy,” which is the study of objects outside Earth’s atmosphere.

The most important part of flying a space shuttle, Morgan explained, is cooperation with other crew members.

“You have to work as a team,” she said. “No one person can fly the space shuttle.”

Morgan passed on some advice for kids with big dreams. The key, she said, is to set goals.

“Kids who have goals do well,” said Morgan. “If you follow your dreams, the sky has no limit.”

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