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NASA to send teacher into space in 2004

Barbara Morgan has trained to become an astronaut for years.
Barbara Morgan has trained to become an astronaut for years.  

By Kate Tobin
CNN Sci-Tech Unit

(CNN) -- Barbara Morgan, an Idaho elementary school teacher and Christa McAuliffe's backup to fly aboard the ill-fated Challenger mission in 1986, is headed to space.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe will announced Friday in a speech on the future of the agency that Morgan will be assigned as a mission specialist on a shuttle flight to the international space station in 2004, according to sources familiar with the space agency.

She has been in astronaut training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston since 1998, when then NASA chief Dan Golden announced the official resumption of the Teacher in Space program.

Rather than select a new person for the job, NASA decided to stick with Morgan, who trained alongside McAuliffe for six months in 1985 and early 1986.

Morgan, 50, is married and the mother of two sons. After graduating with honors from Stanford University in 1974, she began her teaching career at Arlee Elementary School on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana.

NASA selected her as the backup candidate for the Teacher in Space program on July 19, 1985.

The program was suspended after McAuliffe, a New Hampshire educator, and her six NASA crewmates died in the shuttle Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986.

Nevertheless, Morgan continued to work with NASA as the Teacher in Space Designee, mostly giving speeches at schools around the United States.

In the fall of 1986, she returned home to McCall, Idaho, and resumed teaching at McCall-Donnelly Elementary School. Over the years, she continued to work with NASA's Education Division.

When NASA reactivated the Teacher in Space program in 1998, the agency mandated that Morgan become an astronaut candidate and complete full training before she would be eligible for assignment to a mission.

She is currently a full-time astronaut based at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.


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