Teacher-Astronaut Adjusts to Life in Space

Shuttle Astronauts to Dock at Space Station Today
Former schoolteacher and STS-118 mission specialist Barbara Morgan (left) and Commander Scott Kelly share thoughts on their spaceflight on Aug. 9, 2007. Image: NASA TV.

Teacher-turned-spaceflyerBarbara Morgan is adjusting to life in Earth orbit after her 22-year wait toreach space.

"It'sgreat being up here," Morgan said late Thursday via a space-to-groundvideo link. "We've been working really hard, but it's a really good,fun kind of work."

Morgan, 55,launched into space Wednesday aboard the NASA's shuttle Endeavour with her six STS-118crewmates en route to the International Space Station (ISS). The astronauts aredelivering cargo, spare parts and a new starboard-side piece of the station'smain truss.

Set for a1:53 p.m. EDT (1753 GMT) arrival at the ISS today, Morgan and her crewmatesspent much of Thursday scanning Endeavour's heat shield for signs of damage.The teacher-astronaut is also carrying 10 million cinnamon basil seeds aboardthe shuttle for later distribution to schools on Earth and hopes to hold at leastone, and up to three, video sessions with students during her flight.

A formerMcCall, Idaho, elementaryschool teacher, Morgan first joined NASA's astronaut corps in 1985 when shewas selected as the backup for the agency's first Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe.McAuliffe, a New Hampshire high school teacher, was killed along with sixcrewmates aboard the spaceshuttle Challenger just after launch in 1986.

NASArecalled Morgan to its spaceflying ranks in 1998 as a full-fledged astronaut,assigning her to the STS-118 crew in late 2002. But Morgan and NASA weathered asecond shuttle tragedy, the 2003 Columbia accident, before finally the formerschoolteacher finally launched into space.

"Ittakes some getting used to," Morgan said Thursday of life inweightlessness, adding that her first say in orbit offered an odd sensation. "Allof yesterday, even though I kept my head upright so it looked like a normalceiling and a normal floor and normal walls, I felt like I was upside down thewhole time."

Keepingtrack of things when everything is floating free of gravity's tug is also achallenge, she added.

"Evenif it has Velcro on it, you set it aside and within 30 seconds it's gone and youhave no idea where it went to," Morgan said. "So we've got a lot ofgood challenges up here and we'll be playing some treasure hunts."

NASA isbroadcasting Endeavour's STS-118 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for mission updates andSPACE.com's NASA TV feed.

  • VIDEO: Teaching the Future: Teacher-Astronaut Barbara Morgan
  • VIDEO: Endeavour's STS-118 Mission Profile
  • Complete Space 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.