More than 32 Years after Challenger Disaster, NASA Astronauts Recreate Christa McAuliffe’s “Lost Lessons” in Space

August 8, 2018


More than 32 years after her death, the first of Christa McAuliffe’s lost lessons has been finally released from space. On Tuesday, NASA and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education posted a video of astronaut-teacher Ricky Arnold performing one of McAuliffe’s experiments aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

McAuliffe was a social studies teacher at Concord High School, New Hampshire. She became a NASA astronaut in 1980s and was finally selected to kick off NASAs Teacher In Space project. Under this project, McAuliffe had planned to perform a variety of scientific experiments with fluids and illustrate effervescence, Newtons laws of motion, etc., for students while in space. Sadly, McAuliffe could not complete any of her experiments in space and died along with six other crewmates on January 28, 1986, as Challenger shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after lifting off from launch pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Joe Acaba have recreated the experiments that McAuliffe had planned to conduct during her ISS mission, thereby fulfilling the legacy of a woman who inspired thousands of students and teachers all around the world through her work.



Arnold and Acaba have filmed several science lessons aboard the ISS, just as McAuliffe had planned. These lessons are now being posted online by the Challenger Center, a not-for-profit organization supporting science, technology, engineering and math education.

The video released on Tuesday shows Arnold using chromatography paper, water, a felt pen and food coloring to demonstrate how a mixture separates into individual parts.

The videos filmed by NASA astronauts come with corresponding classroom lessons to further engage students. These lessons challenge students to perform the experiment and observe how results on Earth differ from the results that were seen on the ISS.

Astronaut Ricky Arnold, a former science teacher, described it as “an incredible honor” to complete Christa McAuliffe’s lessons in space. Arnold arrived at the ISS in March and is due to return to Earth in October. Acuba has already returned to Earth in the month of February.

Sarah Hoffschwelle, director of education at the McAuliffe Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, said that the staff at the Center is happy to see Christas lessons being recreated in space.

“Continuing her legacy, her very memory, is our mission and we are so happy that people from all over the world for years to come will get to experience her lessons, just as she wanted,” said Hoffschwelle.

“The average person will now be able to access these videos and watch and experience these lessons performed, getting as close to being on the Space Station as possible. This commemoration of her work will inspire potentially millions to reach for the stars. We honor her memory and her legacy every day and this is just one way NASA is doing so as well.”

During a TV linkup, June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee, thanked Arnold for making McAuliffes lessons “come to life.”

“From the day after the Challenger accident when I knew that NASA would continue the mission, I prayed that we could continue the education mission,” Rodgers told Arnold.

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center will host a live downlink with astronaut Ricky Arnold on Thursday from 2:35 to 2:55 p.m.  More information about the event can be found online at

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