Barbara Morgan Takes Teaching into Space: NASA Will Send Educators to Space So That They Can Use Their Skills and Experiences as Classroom Teachers to Connect Space Exploration to the Classroom

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The space shuttle Endeavour launched August 8, carrying seven astronauts to orbit on a complex flight to continue the assembly of the International Space Station and fulfill a long-standing human spaceflight legacy. The 119th flight in space shuttle history and the 22nd to the station is unique to ITEA, because one of its crew is one of our own, ITEA member Barbara R. Morgan.

Morgan is the first educator mission specialist in NASA's Educator Astronaut Program, having served as the backup to payload specialist Christa McAuliffe in the Teacher in Space Project. McAuliffe and six fellow astronauts lost their lives in the Challenger accident on January 28, 1986. Morgan, who was an elementary school teacher in McCall, Idaho, before being selected as McAuliffe's backup, returned to teaching after the accident. She was selected to train as a mission specialist in 1998 and was named to the STS-118 crew in 2002.

This was Barbara Morgan's first spaceflight. She rode middeck for the launch of Endeavour and was seated in the flight deck for entry and landing. As the "loadmaster," Morgan was the crew member responsible for the 5,000 pounds of supplies and equipment transferred between the shuttle and the space station. She also operated the shuttle and station robotic arms during the delicate spacewalk and installation tasks. Additionally, as an Educator Astronaut, Morgan was involved in three live, interactive educational in-flight events with students gathered in Boise, Idaho, Alexandria, Virginia, and Lynn, Massachusetts to discuss her mission and the educational aspects of human spaceflight.

The prime objective of the mission was to install the Starboard 5 (S5) truss on the right side of the station's expanding truss structure. The two-ton S5 was robotically attached and bolted to the S4 truss, which was delivered to the station on the STS-117 mission in June. The S5 truss is 11 feet long, and serves as a "spacer" to provide structural support for the outboard solar arrays that will be installed on the $6 truss next year and to provide sufficient space for clearance between those arrays and the S4 truss solar blankets. Another high priority task for Endeavour's astronauts was the replacement of the failed Control Moment Gyroscope-3 (CMG-3), which experienced high electrical currents and erratic spin rates in October 2006 and was taken off line.

After arriving on orbit, crewmembers Caldwell and Williams captured video and digital stills of Endeavour's jettisoned external fuel tank for imagery analysis on the ground, the first in a series of iterative steps to clear Endeavour's heat shield for a safe landing. Endeavour's astronauts then set up their tools and computers and opened the ship's cargo bay doors. Later in the flight, Morgan and Caldwell were at the controls of the shuttle's robotic arm as they lifted the third External Stowage Platform out of Endeavour's cargo bay and handed it over to crewmembers Hobaugh and Anderson, who operated the station's Canadarm2. Hobaugh and Anderson installed the ESP-3 onto a cargo attachment device on the P3 truss, where capture bolts locked it down.

Later in the day, Morgan conducted the first in-flight educational event with students gathered at the Discovery Center of Idaho in Boise, a 20-minute interactive event to discuss the progress of the flight. Several days later, Morgan conducted educational in-flight events with students at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria, Virginia and the Robert L. Ford NASA Explorer School in Lynn, Massachusetts.

Educator Astronaut Program

NASA's Office of Education aims to strengthen NASA and the nation's future workforce by attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines. The Educator Astronaut Program (EAP) is part of NASA's Elementary and Secondary Education Program. NASA believes that, by increasing the number of students involved in NASA-related activities at the elementary and secondary education levels, more students will be inspired and motivated to pursue higher levels of STEM courses--NASA has selected educators with expertise in kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms to train to become fully qualified astronauts. …