In a speech at Jefferson Junior High School in Washington, D.C., President Reagan announces that a teacher would be the first "citizen passenger" on the space shuttle. "When that shuttle lifts off," said Reagan, "all of America will be reminded of the crucial role that teachers and education play in the life of our nation. I can't think of a better lesson for our children and our country."
The Teacher-in-Space, or TIS program, as it came to be called, was actually the first of several planned programs to allow non-astronauts to fly on the shuttle.
"The concept was supposed to be that we were going to fly various occupations . . . where people tend to be good communicators," says Ed Campion, the first press secretary for the Teacher-in-Space program. "So the first one was a teacher. The next one was going to be a journalist . . . and they were talking about flying an artist or flying a poet."
When 32-year old McCall Elementary School teacher Barbara Morgan heard the president's announcement on the news that night, "I shot straight up and said, "Wow!" she recalls. "Because as teachers, we're always looking for opportunities to bring the world to our classroom, to gain more experiences, gain more knowledge about our world, so that we can make our classroom a better place for our kids."
"We were sitting on our canoe on Lake Payette," says her brother Howard Radding. "And she said, "President Reagan just announced that he is taking a teacher in space on the shuttle. I had heard nothing about the shuttle and her comment was, "I'm going." And my mom and I, we all kind of looked at each other and laughed, "Ha ha, Barbara." And she said, "No. I'm going."