September 2, 1948 – Civilian astronaut Christa McAuliffe is born
Christa McAuliffe, the teacher-astronaut from Concord, New Hampshire, was born September 2, 1948. She died aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger with STS-51-L crew on January 28, 1986 when the space shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after launch. McAuliffe was selected as a teacher-civilian to go into space by NASA based on the Teacher in Space Project.
“The mission ended in disaster following the destruction of Challenger 73 seconds after lift-off because of the failure of an O-ring seal on Challenger‘s right Solid Rocket Booster (SRB). The failure of the seal allowed a blow-torch like flare to impinge upon one of two aft SRB attach struts, which eventually failed, freeing the booster to pivot about its remaining attachment points. Subsequently, the forward part of the booster cylinder impacted the external tank (ET) intertank area, leading to a structural failure of the ET – the core structural component of the entire stack. A rapid burning of liberated propellants ensued. With the structural “backbone” of the stack compromised and breaking up, the SRBs flew off on their own, as did the orbiter, which rapidly disintegrated due to the overwhelming aerodynamic forces.”
“Space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in math and science, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there.”
– Christa McAuliffe, cited in Into that Silent Sea (p. 289).