Shuttle Astronauts to Beam Down Space Lessons

NASA's First Educator Astronaut Aims for Space
NASA's first educator astronaut Barbara Morgan trains for an Aug. 7, 2007 launch during NASA's STS-118 mission. (Image credit: NASA.)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. ? NASA's shuttle Endeavour is poised to launch into space Wednesday withfresh cargo, a new hunk of the International Space Station (ISS), spare parts and10 million cinnamon basil seeds.

The seedypayload is launching in the hopes of garnering youth interest in science andspace, NASA education officials said today in a briefing here at the KennedySpace Center (KSC).

"Tomorrowwe will have ? what could be considered the ultimate classroom," saidJoyce Winterton, NASA's assistant administrator for education, of the shuttleand its seven STS-118 astronauts.

Endeavouris slatedto launch on NASA's second construction flight of the year to the ISS at 6:36p.m. EDT (2236 GMT) Wednesday. Commanded by veteranspaceflyer Scott Kelly, the STS-118 mission may last from 11-to-14 days,pending the success of a station-to-shuttle power transfer system.

Whilestudents in the U.S. sow their seeds in plantgrowth chambers they've designed as part of a NASA-led engineeringchallenge, Canadian youth will follow the changes and risks to astronauts inspace. Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Dave Williams, an STS-118 missionspecialist and spacewalker, will lead the CD-based project deemed "My Bodyin Space" from orbit around earth.

MarilynSteinberg, manager for the CSA's space learning program, said 40,000 Canadianclassrooms will reach 1.2 million students with the interactive CDs.

"They'regoing to allow our students to engage in an active way," Steinberg said.

Teacherin space

Teacher-turned-spaceflyerBarbara Morgan, NASA's first official educator astronaut, will rocket tospace for the first time as one of Endeavour's mission specialists. Wintertonsaid teachers have been closely watching Morgan since she served as a backupTeacher in Space to Christa McAuliffe before the tragic 1986 Challengershuttle accident, garnering extra interest in the STS-118 mission.

"When[she] returns ? she will really bring back to students and educators the passionfor engineering and science," Winterton said, adding that the mission willhopefully inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists as theshuttle program nears its end.

Morgan,however, views her role as a beginning in NASA's space program.

"I seemyself as just one of many teachers who will fly as part of this program,"Morgan told in a preflight interview.

Endeavour'sSTS-118 astronauts will work together to add a new starboard side sectionto the space station's growing main truss during their flight. NASA missionplanners have said that, if time permits, Morgan and her colleagues willconduct up to three live downlinks to U.S. locations in which students on Earthcan ask the crew questions and watch demonstrations.

  • VIDEO: Teaching the Future: Teacher-Astronaut Barbara Morgan
  • VIDEO: Space Shuttle Endeavour in 3-D with Photosynth
  • Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage


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Former contributor

Dave Mosher is currently a public relations executive at AST SpaceMobile, which aims to bring mobile broadband internet access to the half of humanity that currently lacks it. Before joining AST SpaceMobile, he was a senior correspondent at Insider and the online director at Popular Science. He has written for several news outlets in addition to Live Science and, including:, National Geographic News, Scientific American, Simons Foundation and Discover Magazine.