students make their way to their classrooms. A TV is placed in every classroom on campus. Christa McAuliffe, the first member of the Teacher in Space Project, along with American engineer Judith Resnik will be the second and third women placed in space by NASA. I sit patiently in my third period Astronomy class, waiting for this historic event to occur. The countdown proceeds until finally, liftoff of the Space Shuttle Challenger and its brave crew of seven! Cheers can be heard down
the hall and across the school. Everyone watches as Challenger climbs higher and higher. And then there is silence. We watch as the shuttle explodes and its beautiful smoke fume forms a twisting path of death.
They are gone, all of them.
That was a difficult time for our space program. The shuttles were grounded for nearly three years and NASA had lost its credibility. Many Americans did not want to have women in space again, much less a school teacher. We had to protect America’s daughters and leave space exploration to the men.
Fortunately, today’s NASA feels differently. In recent times, a new group of astronaut candidates have been chosen. This class of eight includes four women and represents the highest percentage of women in any previous class. According to NASA's director of
flight crew operations, Janet Kavandi, these women were selected based on
qualifications, not gender - Christina Hammock, Nicole Mann, Anne McClain and
Christina Hammock is a station chief for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Nicole Mann and Anne McClain are both Navy test pilots. Jessica Meir has an Oceanography doctorate and is an assistant professor of anesthesia.
With the Mars mission on the horizon, it’s exciting to know we will have the most dedicated and qualified individuals on board. It is important to continue space exploration and include women. Currently, 12 out of 49 active NASA astronauts are women. Each of these women honors the lives and sacrifice of our early pioneers, McAuliffe and Resnik.