Barbara Morgan

Barbara Morgan was a second-grade teacher in rural McCall, Idaho, when she heard President Reagan’s announcement of the Teacher in Space program. More than 10,000 teachers sent in applications. NASA selected 10 finalists, with Morgan among them. New Hampshire high school social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe was chosen to go into space. Morgan was selected as her back-up.

In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded after liftoff, killing everyone on board. The Teacher in Space program was presumed to be dead, as well. But Morgan did not give up on her dream to become an astronaut. A dozen years later, NASA asked her to apply to apply for the 1998 astronaut class, not as a teacher but as a full-fledged astronaut. After two years of training, she was assigned technical duties at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. In 2003, another tragedy struck: The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated while reentering the atmosphere.

It wasn’t until four years later that Morgan was assigned a spot on the Shuttle Endeavour as a loadmaster and shuttle and station robotic arm operator. More than 20 years after hearing about the Teacher in Space program, Morgan had made it into space.  

Morgan recently retired from Boise State University where she served at a Distinguished Educator in Residence. Two schools in Idaho are named for her, including her former elementary school in McCall.

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