The Challenger Disaster: A Teacher's Legacy Lives On

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January 13, 1986: Christa McAuliffe received a preview of microgravity during a special flight aboard NASA's KC-135 zero gravity aircraft, which provides short periods of weightlessness.
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Thirty years ago today, students at Concord High School gathered around TV sets to watch their teacher, Christa McAuliffe, go on an unprecedented journey. McAuliffe was about to become the first teacher to ever go into space. She hoped to change the way kids around the country engaged with the cosmos, and with history. 

“I would like to humanize the space age by giving a perspective from a non-astronaut because I think the students will look at that and say, 'This is an ordinary person. This ordinary person is contributing to history,'" said McAuliffe. "And if they can make that connection, they're going to get excited about history, they're going to get excited about the future, they're going to get excited about space."

But the excitement surrounding her journey quickly turned to sorrow. McAuliffe was one of the seven crew members that died in the Challenger disaster—an event that U.S. News and World Report later described as "the first ever national trauma on children."

But for many students watching, that trauma, mixed with their teacher's inspiration and enthusiasm, changed their lives. A number of McAuliffe's students have went on to become teachers themselves. 

Kurt Gergler, a principal at Bow Elementary School, is among that group. He was a student of McAuliffe's for four years, and talks with The Takeaway here.