In Their Own Words: Barbara Morgan By NASA
In Their Own Words: Barbara Morgan
Astronaut Barbara Morgan discusses spaceflight and her STS-118 mission.
Were you happy to fly aboard space shuttle Endeavour?
All the orbiters are fantastic, but Endeavour has special meaning to me as a schoolteacher, because Endeavour was our replacement orbiter for Challenger, and it was named by schoolchildren all over this country. And it was one of my favorite NASA education programs. So the children did a lot of research and learned about earlier ships of exploration and discovery, which our shuttles are named after.
They chose Captain Cook and they learned all about it, but what I loved even more than that was, not only were they learning about prior exploration and discovery, but kids all over the country with their teachers came up with their own wonderful, very hands-on, very rich activities that helped them do some exploration and discovery on their own, and really got them connected to our current-day space program as well.
What was it like to visit the Expedition 15 crew living on the International Space Station?
Our International Space Station crew was so excited to show us their home. And at one point, we were in an area, and it was the first time I had a chance to look out one of the station windows. And that view was incredible. It was from that vantage point from the back of the station looking forward, and you could see Soyuz, and then you could see our shuttle.
And it almost looked like the Soyuz was superimposed on the shuttle. And it was magical, the blackness of the sky was this amazing black. Something I’d never seen on Earth. And so I said something to Fyodor, like, ‘I’ve really got to get to work. But if you’ll help me, if you don’t mind I’d love to come back and take this shot at some point.’
I never did have time to get back and take that picture. And after we had landed, it was a couple days later, and I was checking my e-mail, there was an e-mail from Fyodor and he took that picture for me and e-mailed it to me back at Houston. That to me, it was a wonderful, warm story, but it also shows what our crews are like, and what truly a home and a family this whole space exploration is.
How did you connect with students during your mission?
So one of the questions for long duration is, how do you feed people? How do you sustain human life on other planets, and other places? And so we put out a challenge to our kindergarten through 12th grade students to think about that, and then design and build, out of scrap materials or whatever, a growth chamber for either the moon, or Mars, or even their own backyard.
Meanwhile, we took up 10 million basil seeds with us, and then they spent some time with us up in space, we left a sample, one example of a plant growth chamber on station, and with the station crew, with some of those basil seeds. And they grew, and filmed that, so the kids could compare. And we brought those seeds back home to us and they’ve been distributed all over the country to classrooms.
What will be the legacy of educator astronauts?
So I consider myself very, very lucky to have gotten to train as Christa McAuliffe’s backup. She was, is and always will be our first teacher in space. And she did a fantastic job representing the best of our profession. I was lucky to get to help carry that on. And what I am most proud of for all of us is, what Christa started has continued on. We now have three more teachers in the astronaut office.
And I’m just really proud of that legacy and knowing that NASA knows how important education is, that it’s fully infused in one of the most highest visible portions of the space program.
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