Jan 28, 2015 6:23 PM

Remembering Concord teacher Christa McAuliffe 29 years after Challenger explosion


CONCORD - She would have been the first civilian and the first teacher to have traveled in space, but the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger ended seconds after takeoff. A look back at the disaster and the Concord teacher who died as a result.

It's a disastrous moment in time that no one who is old enough to remember the day will ever forget.

Thomas Messineo of Concord said, "We were sitting inside the classroom that day and the craft blew up on the TV."

Pat Twombly of Concord said, "We had a couple of TVs around and everybody was silent and watching and in disbelief."

29 years ago, at 11:40 am Eastern time above Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA's Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds into flight. A rocket booster failure ignited the fuel tank killing all seven on board, including New Hampshire school teacher Christa McAuliffe.

The Challenger launch was broadcast live on television. Many watched in disbelief.

Dan Bailey of Concord said, "I was sitting at the TV with others around and it exploded and I felt this sink, like oh my God."

When the reality of the disaster set in the enormity of the loss spurred a national and worldwide mourning.

McAuliffe taught social studies at Concord High School. She was 37 years old. A wife and mother of two children. NASA selected her out of 11,000 applicants to be the first teacher in space. She was planning to teach two lessons from space.

New Hampshire honors her life and her sacrifice by naming an elementary school and a Discovery Center after her in Concord. Both chose not to commemorate this day.

McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center Executive Cirector Jeanne Gerulskis said, "She was a vibrant woman and an incredible teacher who really inspired her students. What we try to do is inspire young students every day. We don't want to be commemorating this disaster that doesn't take a look at this incredible, vibrant woman and the life she lived for 37 years."


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