Morgan accepts risk; ready for flight
Updated: December 12, 2002

  Barbara Morgan
Barbara Morgan speaks at the Maryland Science Center on Thursday. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls.
In November 2003, nearly 18 years after the 1986 Challenger disaster, educator-astronaut Barbara Morgan will finally rocket into orbit to fulfill Christa McAuliffe's legacy as the first teacher in space.

"I'm thrilled to be flying as both an astronaut and as a teacher," Morgan said. "I am very proud to help continue our first teacher in space Christa McAuliffe's mission and most of all, I look forward to many more flights by many more teachers in the future."

Morgan, McAuliffe's backup in the original Teacher in Space program and now a full-fledged astronaut, has been assigned to shuttle mission STS-118, a space station assembly flight that will be commanded by veteran shuttle pilot Scott Kelly. Morgan, Kelly and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., at the Maryland Science Center this afternoon to formally announce the assignment.

"What a great day!" said Mikulski. "This is a day that I've been waiting for now for over 15 years. ... We're once again going to fulfill the dream of sending a teacher into space."

Said O'Keefe: "We can think of no better place to teach math and science, about the wonders of discovery, than from space. And that's why we intend to enable Barbara Morgan and her crewmates and the educator astronauts who will follow in her footsteps ... to participate in our space missions so they can directly interact with students through the internet, television and even conversation."

Morgan and Kelly will be joined aboard the shuttle Columbia by pilot Charles Hobaugh, Lisa Nowak and spacewalkers Scott Parazynski and Canadian flier David Williams. The mission is devoted to delivering supplies and a set of solar arrays to the international space station. Liftoff is targeted for Nov. 13, 2003.

During an interview with CBS News earlier today, Morgan said she was "very excited" by the assignment and looking forward to expanding the role of education in spaceflight.

"Everything that I learned from Christa and her crewmates on the Challenger crew have stuck with me and they've been with me, sitting right here, through the whole training," Morgan said.

"Christa was, is and always will be our first teacher in space and I think the thing I'm most excited about is this is a continuation. But it goes way out into the future and I'm really looking forward to all the other teachers who will be flying for education in the years to come."

Morgan is the first of a new breed of "educator astronauts" trained as mission specialists and charged with promoting education through spaceflight. Her 2003 mission will deliver a new solar array truss segment to the international space station.

"It's quite a complex mission and something I'm really looking forward to," she said. "We're going to be taking the S5, one of the truss pieces, and attaching it to the station and then moving a lot of equipment for the crew who's living aboard.

"I plan to go up there and do my job as a crew member and really learn all I can to be able to bring that back to students and teachers.

Asked if she considered her personal safety when contemplating launch aboard a space shuttle, Morgan said "you bet we consider the risks and we weigh them very carefully."

"To me, I can't think of anything more important than our children and their future and education," she said. "And to be flying for education makes it all worth it. Once you make that decision, you go forward with a happy heart. Safety is number one, it's in everything we do. So you just go forward with a happy heart and do the best you can."

O'Keefe said Morgan's assignment represented the "opportunity of a lifetime."

"The opportunity to have a trained teacher, someone who really knows how to connect with students, the opportunity to really relate to students in a way that energizes an interest in math and science and all the capabilities necessary in order to pursue professional careers, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. For her, it's just another day in the office."

Apollo 17 DVDs
NEW! The final lunar mission to date, the journey of Apollo 17, occurred 30 years ago this month. The mission is captured in this spectacular six- and two-disc sets. Pre-order today and save!

Apollo 8 leaves the cradle
NEW! The December 1968 journey of the Apollo 8 crew into lunar orbit is relived in this unique three-disc DVD set. Pre-order today and save!

Astronomy Now presents Hubble: the space telescope's view of the cosmos. A collection of the best images from the world’s premier space observatory.
Apollo 15 DVDs
Bring a unique piece of space history to your living room. Two- and six-disc Apollo 15 DVDs will be shipping soon.

Hubble Posters
Stunning posters featuring images from the Hubble Space Telescope and world-renowned astrophotographer David Malin are now available from the Astronomy Now Store.

Hubble Calendar
NEW! This remarkable calendar features stunning images of planets, stars, gaseous nebulae, and galaxies captured by NASA's orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

The conception, design, development, testing and launch history of the Saturn I and IB rocket is documented in this forthcoming three-disc DVD.

The ultimate Apollo 11 DVD
NEW 3-DISC EDITION This exceptional chronicle of the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission features new digital transfers of film and television coverage unmatched by any other.