Alamogordo, NM (PressExposure) September 25, 2007 -- As Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan prepares to blast into space, the Space Frontier Foundation and the United States Rocket Academy announced that the new Teachers in Space effort will begin accepting applications from teachers this October.
"We congratulate Barbara Morgan on the beginning of this historic voyage," said Space Frontier Foundation Executive Director Jeff Krukin. "NASA is keeping a commitment to education that was made more than 20 years ago. Now, we need to take the next step. The Educator Astronaut program takes a teacher out of the classroom to join the NASA astronaut corps. Our goal is to let many teachers experience spaceflight and return to American classrooms to educate and inspire the next generation."
President Ronald Reagan announced the first Teacher in Space program in 1984. NASA selected Christa McAuliffe and Barbara Morgan to be the first teachers to fly in space, but NASA backed away from the program after the Challenger accident claimed the life of Christa McAuliffe in 1986. Under political pressure in the 1990's, NASA created the Educator Astronaut program and accepted Barbara Morgan as a permanent NASA employee. Unfortunately, the goal of returning flown teachers to American classrooms was lost.
"We're returning to that original vision," said Teachers in Space project manager Edward Wright," and expanding on it. The average teacher touches thousands of students during a teaching career. Imagine the impact of hundreds or even thousands of astronaut teachers, men and women who have been to space, in American schools. For 40 years, we've held forth the false promise that if students studied math and science, they would have a chance to go into space. A student still has a better chance of playing professional basketball than flying as a NASA astronaut.
"Today, we're changing that. Private companies are developing a new generation of reusable suborbital vehicles that promise dramatic reductions in the cost of human spaceflight. We are working with leading suborbital companies. When they're ready to fly, we will have teachers who are trained and ready to go."
The rules for the first competition will be announced at the Wirefly X-PRIZE Cup on October 26-28, and we will begin accepting applications at that time.