1985: a year that changed everything
Months before President Reagan announced that a school teacher would be the first private citizen to fly in space, I read a small inconspicuous story in an astronomy magazine reporting the formation of a Space Flight Participant Office at NASA. A group would be formed to pick the first private citizen to fly aboard the Space Shuttle. My letter of application was in the mail the next day. We soon learned that the application process was long and complicated. We couldn't have imagined how life-changing that 20-page application would be.
In the spring of 1985, over 11,000 of us sent in our paperwork. After a lengthy process of evaluations of our applications and an all-day interview, two teachers from each state and government agency school were selected and flown to Washington, DC, in June 1985 for the NASA Teacher in Space Conference. It was a week of dinners, receptions at the White House hosted by President Reagan, and photo-ops with our Senators and Congress members. And most importantly, interviews with dignitaries who would determine our fates. It was a week none of us will ever forget.
Through the Teacher in Space Project, I met amazing people. TIS opened doors to opportunities that I'm still enjoying. I am indeed fortunate to have been part of it all.
The legacy left by Christa lives on through the remaining Teacher in Space Finalists in what we came to be called- The Class of 51-L, Challenger's last flight designation.