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Episode 61: New Hampshire: From School Room to Space Shuttle with Dani Coke

podcast Dec 03, 2021

In this episode, Sharon sits down with return guest Danielle Coke to learn about the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986. This history lesson is cast from the perspective of one of America’s most cherished ordinary heroes, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher from New Hampshire who was selected by NASA to become the first teacher in space. In 1984 President Ronal Reagan announced the Teacher in Space Project designed to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in mathematics, science, and space exploration by sending a teacher on a voyage to space with NASA. The infamous program ended fatally, however, when after just 73 seconds into its flight on January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing Christa and all six other crew members aboard.

Link to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • The power of the ordinary person to change the world 
  • Why does NASA cancel so many voyages? 
  • Meet the alternate teacher for the 1984 Teacher in Space Program
  • President Ronald Reagan’s obsession with space 
  • NASA’s complicated relationship with the goodwill of the American people
  • The NASA engineer who predicted the Challenger’s fate 

3 Biggest Takeaways: 

  • Born in 1948, Sharon Christa McAuliffe came of age in a period of time when it was unusual for women to work outside of the home. Highly intelligent, however, Christa, as her family affectionately referred to her, was destined for greater things than the housewife society expected her to become. After graduating from Framingham State College with a degree in education and history, Christa went on to become a history teacher in New Hampshire, where she lived with her husband and two children. 
  • Ronald Reagan took presidential office in 1981, and among top priorities on his political agenda was gaining support for a revival of the national space program. In order to get the support of the American public, he conceptualized the idea of humanizing space travel by sending an ordinary citizen to space, somebody that Americans could relate to. Thereafter, the Teacher in Space Project was launched in 1984, and a call was cast for teachers to submit applications. Christa, an academic of history with a personal interest in space exploration, wasted no time in submitting her application to NASA and was chosen as the face of the program among 11,000 applicants. 
  • Training to go to space with NASA as a civilian teacher was no simple feat. Christa temporarily left her family in New Hampshire and moved to Texas for an entire year leading up to the planned voyage to train physically, educationally, and mentally. During this time, she participated in national media tours and America quickly fell in love with her. After four canceled flights, Christa was finally set to launch into space on January 28, 1986, from Cape Canaveral, FL with the eyes of the world upon her. That morning was unusually cold in Florida’s traditionally warm climate, spectators recall seeing icicles on the spacecraft, which resulted in a devastating malfunction and explosion after takeoff that took the lives of all seven crew members. 

About the Guest:

Danielle Coke is a speaker, artist, creator, and founder of Oh Happy Dani. Whether she was painting canvases or sketching out her favorite Disney characters, art has always been an exciting part of Danielle’s life. Along with a knack for design, she also had a passion for creating magical moments, so she jumped into the Hospitality industry and started her career as a graphic designer and marketing coordinator for an event planning agency. 

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