Christa McAuliffe's understudy, Barbara Morgan, has waited 22 years to go to space; she will get her chance on Wednesday.
I must admit it, I am watching Barbara Morgan's space shuttle mission with a healthy dose of envy.
In the many years I spent pushing NASA to select me as the first journalist to fly on the shuttle, Barbara's name came up a lot.
Ideally, I had hoped that she would be on the crew that I would join on a flight to the International Space Station. I felt the combination of a seasoned reporter and a gifted teacher would make for compelling, unprecedented insight into the world of spaceflight. (After 22-year wait, teacher gets ready for flight
Whether that would have happened is hard to know for certain. But the loss of Columbia on February 1, 2003, permanently grounded my dreams of transmitting live reports from space. I and others at CNN had been negotiating with NASA for several years before that fateful day to secure me a seat on the shuttle. At long last, we were on the cusp of an agreement.
Like Barbara Morgan, I would move to Houston and go through the entire training program for a shuttle "mission specialist". The process would take at least a year, maybe longer. The entire experience was to be grist for a series of special reports on CNN culminating with my reports from the shuttle and the space station during the mission.
We were set to make an announcement after Columbia came home safe and sound. But the loss of the shuttle and her crew put the idea on the shelf, probably for good.
The shuttle fleet is slated for retirement. The last flight is set for the end of 2010. Fourteen more launches (give or take) to go and seven seats on the shuttle and at least 50 astronauts in Houston who have never had a flight. I will let you finish the arithmetic.
I probably have a better chance of hitching a ride with one of those nascent private spaceliners. Who knows.
For a while, I wondered if Barbara would ever realize her dream; although she told me the other day she never doubted she would get a chance to fly. Maybe I could be faulted for not employing her amazing power of positive thinking.
While I am envious, I also am glad Barbara will, at long last, get her chance to go. This is NASA delivering on a promise derailed by the other shuttle disaster -- Challenger.
Christa McAuliffe's understudy has waited in the wings for 22 years, and now the limelight is hers. She will be carrying the fire.
I will be cheering her and her crew on, holding my breath (as always) during that eight-and-a-half minute streak to the heavens.
-- By Miles O'Brien, CNN CorrespondentEditor's note: Meet teacher and astronaut Barbara Morgan tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360," 10 p.m. ET.