Teacher-Astronaut Marks NASA Anniversary with Shuttle Launch Drill

Teacher-Astronaut Marks NASA Anniversary with Shuttle Launch Drill
In the White Room on Launch Pad 39A, mission specialist and educator astronaut Barbara Morgan adjusts the collar of her launch and entry suit before she enters space shuttle Endeavour during a mock countdown on July 19, 2007. (Image credit: NASA/Amanda Diller.)

Teacher-turned-spaceflyerBarbara Morgan strapped into the space shuttle Endeavour with her six crewmatesThursday for a launch dress rehearsal, 22 years to the day that she firstjoined NASA's astronaut corps.

Morgan and herSTS-118crewmates donned their bright orange pressure suits for a day of launch andshuttle escape drills in preparations for a planned Aug. 7 liftoff from NASA'sKennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"Itreally does seem like yesterday," Morgan told reporters Wednesday of herfirst assignment at NASA.

The spaceagency first selected Morgan on July 19, 1985, when she was chosen as thebackup spaceflyer to New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe during NASA's Teacher in Space project.

The two teachers underwent spaceflighttraining for NASA's STS-51L mission aboard the space shuttle Challenger. But McAuliffeand six NASA astronauts died tragically during Challenger'sJanuary 1986 launch when the orbiter blew apart shortly after liftoff.

"Whathappened with Challenger was wrong," Morgan said. "But what the crewand NASA were trying to do was absolutely right, and I'm grateful to continuethat on."

Morganrepresented McAuliffe as her Teacher in Space Designee before retuning to herIdaho classroom in 1986. In 1998, she was once more selected by NASA for spaceflight,this time as a full fledged mission specialist and educator astronaut ratherthan as a civilian teacher. She was assigned to the STS-118 mission aboard the Endeavourorbiter, which NASA commissioned to replace Challenger and was named byschoolchildren, in 2002.

Commandedby veteran shuttle astronaut Scott Kelly, Endeavour's STS-118 mission will deliverabout 5,000 pounds (2,267 kilograms) of cargo, spare parts and new starboard-side piece offramework to the International Space Station (ISS) during an up-to14-day mission. The spaceflightwill mark Endeavour's first mission since late 2002, when NASA pulled theorbiter from flight status to perform an extensive overhaul.

Astronautssaid Wednesday that their orbiter appears to be in fine shape for its planned return to space next month.

"Thereare always minor things that they work on all the way up through launch,"Kelly said. "So far there's nothing that concerns or me, or that I anticipateto be a problem."

Launch daynears

In additionto Thursday's launch dress rehearsal, Endeavour's STS-118 astronauts are expectedto look over the ISS spare parts platform, Starboard 5 (S5) spacer trusssegment and pressurized SPACEHAB cargo module that they will haul to the spacestation during their mission. The activities, along with others earlier thisweek, are part of NASA's standard Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) thatprecedes every shuttle flight.

"Itcouldn't have gone better, it was very smooth," NASA spokesperson GeorgeDiller said of the STS-118 crew's TCDT activities. "There were somelessons learned here, and there were no new surprises."

Morgan,Kelly and their STS-118 crewmates are slated to return to NASA's Johnson SpaceCenter in Houston, Texas later Thursday.

At KSC,engineers are expected to begin priming Endeavour for the three-day fuelingprocess of its orbital maneuvering and reaction control systems engines, aswell the shuttle's auxiliary power units, Diller said.

"We'reright where we should be," he added.

Clickhere to learn more about NASA's education programs planned for the STS-118mission.

  • NASA's STS-118: Teaching the Future Through ISS Assembly
  • SPACE.com Video Interplayer: Space Station Power Up with NASA's STS-117
  • Complete Shuttle Mission Coverage


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.