A Shuttle Flight More Than Two Decades in the Making

Five years ago today — August 8, 2007 — the Space Shuttle Endeavour launched from Kennedy Space Center on an International Space Station construction mission.

(Mission specialist Barbara Morgan on the shuttle’s middeck during STS-118. NASA image.)

On mission STS-118, U.S. astronauts Scott J. Kelly, Charles O. Hobaugh, Richard A. Mastracchio, Barbara R. Morgan, Tracy E. Caldwell, and Benjamin Alvin Drew, along with Canadian astronaut Dafydd (Dave) Williams, delivered and installed a new truss segment to the ISS. They also replaced a failed control moment gyro — part of the attitude control system that keeps the station in the correct orientation — and transferred supplies for the station residents.

Astronaut Morgan was originally Christa McAuliffe’s back-up for the STS-51L mission that ended when the Challenger was destroyed. The June 2007 mission overview for STS-118 explained,

Morgan trained side by side with McAuliffe and witnessed the 1986 Challenger accident in which McAuliffe and her six fellow crew members died. The Teacher in Space Project was suspended then, but Morgan held on to her NASA ties. In the months following that tragedy, she went on the visits McAuliffe would have made, talking to children and teachers all over the country. Then, when she was selected in 1998 to become a full-fledged astronaut, she jumped at the opportunity.

In 2002, Morgan was chosen as the first educator to become a mission specialist astronaut. The Educator Astronaut Project evolved from the Teacher in Space Project. Both aimed to engage and attract students to explore the excitement and wonder of spaceflight and to inspire and support educators. Morgan’s primary duty is the same as it is for the entire crew — accomplish the planned objectives of the station assembly mission.

She had been selected as the Teacher in Space backup candidate in July 1985, and so waited 22 years for her space mission. No wonder she looks happy, though it must have been somewhat bittersweet.

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