Teacher-Astronaut Describes Space For Earthbound Students

Teacher-Astronaut Describes Space For Earthbound Students
Clockwise from left are STS-118 mission specialists Dave Williams, Barbara Morgan and Alvin Drew and Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Clay Anderson. The astronauts participated in an educational event with students asking questions from the Discovery Center in Boise, Idaho. (Image credit: NASA.)

Thisstory was updated at 6:16 p.m. EDT.

HOUSTON --Juggling ping pong balls and blobs of juice, teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morganand her crewmates described life in space to students on Earth Tuesday as NASAponders a possible repair for their shuttle Endeavour.

Morgan, 55,and her crewmates discussed theirSTS-118 spaceflight and answered questions for students at the DiscoveryCenter of Idaho in Boise in the first of three planned educational eventsspaced throughout their 14-day mission to the International Space Station(ISS).

"Well,astronauts and teachers actually do the same thing. We explore, we discoverand we share," Morgan said when asked about her dual role. "The greatthing about being a teacher is you get to do that with students, and the greatthing about being an astronaut is you get to do it in space. And both areabsolutely wonderful jobs."

JoiningMorgan in the broadcast were fellow Endeavour astronauts Dave Williams, AlvinDrew, Jr. and ISS flight engineer Clayton Anderson. Together they answeredquestions ranging from the visible effects of global warming from space and howstars appear out the space station's windows.

"Whenwe look outside, it's very much like trying to look at stars in Boise,"Morgan, a formerMcCall, Idaho, schoolteacher, said as she answered one question, addingthat the lights on the ISS and Endeavour are very bright. "You can seesome, but then if you go up high in the mountains up to McCall and you have allthe lights out, that's what it'll be like once we undock from station and turnall our lights out."

Morganoriginally joined NASA in 1985 as the agency's backup to Teacher in SpaceChrista McAuliffe before the tragic Challenger accidentin January 1986. McAuliffe originally planned to teach a class lesson fromspace. NASA recalled Morgan from her teaching post in 1998 to train as afull-fledged mission specialist and educator astronaut.

WhileMorgan and her crewmates worked in space, NASA engineers continued evaluatingwhether the astronauts will have to repair a small,but deep gouge on the shuttle's tile-covered underbelly caused by fuel tankdebris during their Aug. 8 launch. A decision on whether a fix is required isanticipated for Wednesday, mission managers have said.

In a separateinterview session with reporters on Earth earlier today, Morgan and hercrewmates said they were confident Endeavour was safe to fly home, but wereprepared for any repair work if required.

Spareparts delivery

Before theymade their space broadcasts, Morgan and her crewmates delivered a massive newspare parts platform to the ISS.

Dubbed theExternal Stowage Platform-3 (ESP-3), the exposed hardware depot weighs about7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms) and has space for seven major ISS components.The platform is stocked with a battery charging unit, a spare robotic arm jointand a nitrogen tank assembly for the station's cooling system and was stowed onthe Port 3 truss segment of the orbital laboratory.

Morgan andSTS-118 mission specialist Tracy Caldwell plucked the new spare parts platformout of Endeavour's payload bay with the orbiter's robotic arm, then handed itoff to the station'sown robotic appendage wielded by shuttle pilot Charlie Hobaugh for final installation.

The abilityto store large components, especially those only NASA shuttles can carry, is vital forthe ISS as the space agency prepares to retire its three aging orbiters inSeptember 2010, mission managers said.

"Eachtime we bring spares on board, we're getting ready for shuttleretirement," Joel Montalbano,NASA's lead ISS flight director for Endeavour's STS-118 flight, told reporterslate Monday. "So this is just another step in that preparation."

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

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


Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

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.