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Barbara Morgan

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Barbara Morgan
Morgan in 2006
Barbara Radding

(1951-11-28) November 28, 1951 (age 72)
EducationStanford University (BS)
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
12d 17h 53m
Mission insignia

Barbara Radding Morgan (born November 28, 1951) is an American teacher and a former NASA astronaut. She participated in the Teacher in Space program as backup to Christa McAuliffe for the 1986 ill-fated STS-51-L mission of the Space Shuttle Challenger. She then trained as a mission specialist, and flew on STS-118 in August 2007. She is the first teacher to have been to space.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Morgan was born to Dr. and Mrs. Jerry Radding in 1951 and raised in Fresno, California, where she attended Herbert Hoover High School. Following graduation in 1969, she was accepted to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where she graduated with distinction in 1973 with a B.A. in Human Biology. She obtained her teaching credential from Notre Dame de Namur University in nearby Belmont in 1974.[2]

Teaching career since 1974[edit]

Morgan began her teaching career in 1974 on the Flathead Indian Reservation at Arlee Elementary School in Arlee, Montana, where she taught remedial reading and math. From 1975 to 1978, she taught remedial reading/math and second grade at McCall-Donnelly Elementary School in McCall, Idaho. From 1978 to 1979, Morgan taught English and science to third graders at Colegio Americano de Quito in Quito, Ecuador, for a year. From 1979 to 1998, Morgan taught second, third, and fourth grades at McCall-Donnelly Elementary School.[3]

Teacher in Space Project[edit]

Christa McAuliffe and Morgan in December 1985

Morgan was selected as the backup candidate for the NASA Teacher in Space Project on July 19, 1985. From September 1985 to January 1986, Morgan trained with Christa McAuliffe and the Space Shuttle Challenger crew at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. Following McAuliffe's death in the Challenger disaster, Morgan assumed the duties of Teacher in Space Designee. From March 1986 to July 1986, she worked with NASA, speaking to educational organizations throughout the country. In the fall of 1986, Morgan returned to Idaho to resume her teaching career. She taught second and third grades at McCall-Donnelly Elementary and continued to work with NASA's Education Division, Office of Human Resources and Education. Her duties as Teacher in Space Designee included public speaking, educational consulting, curriculum design, and serving on the National Science Foundation's Federal Task Force for Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering.[4]

NASA career[edit]

In January 1998, 12 years after McAuliffe's death, Morgan was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate (mission specialist) and reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1998 to begin training to become a full-time astronaut. Following the completion of two years of training and evaluation, she was assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations Branch. She served in the Astronaut Office CAPCOM Branch, working in Mission Control as prime communicator with on-orbit crews.[5]

Like many other astronauts and cosmonauts, Morgan is a licensed amateur radio operator, having passed the technician class license exam in 2003. This qualified her to use the facilities of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) project.[6][7]

Morgan was initially scheduled to fly on the STS-118 mission on Space Shuttle Columbia in November 2004. During the disaster that destroyed Columbia in February 2003, she was aboard a training chase plane which was following the shuttle as it prepared to land.[8] As a result of the disaster, STS-118 was delayed until 2007 and was moved to Endeavour.

Morgan's duties as a mission specialist were no different than those of other crew members. While NASA press releases and media briefings often referred to her as a "mission specialist educator" or "educator astronaut", Morgan did not train in the Educator Astronaut Project. NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin clarified at a press conference after STS-118 that Morgan was not considered a mission specialist educator, but rather was a standard mission specialist, who had been a teacher.[9]

Prior to her flight on STS-118, NASA seemed to limit Morgan's exposure to the press, but she did a series of interviews shortly before the start of the mission about what the crew of STS-118 would be doing to help build the International Space Station,[10][11][12][13] commenting, "You know, there's a great sense of pride to be able to be involved in a human endeavor that takes us all a little bit farther. When you look down and see our Earth, and you realize what we are trying to do as a human race, it's pretty profound."[14]

Three weeks after Morgan's mission ended, she conducted her first space education assignment at Walt Disney World in Florida. Morgan's words from that day were etched into a plaque on a wall of Mission: Space. The "Wall of Honor" contains quotes from notable people, such as Neil Armstrong, John F. Kennedy, Charles Lindbergh, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Galileo, and Christa McAuliffe. Morgan's plaque is placed beside McAuliffe's, which says: "Space is for everybody ... That's our new frontier out there."[15] This event was one of a series of lectures Morgan would complete.

Spaceflight experience[edit]

STS-118, an assembly mission to the International Space Station, successfully launched from Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 6:36:42 p.m. EDT, 8 August 2007.[16] Morgan served as robotic arm operator and transfer coordinator, coordinating the transfer of over 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of cargo to the International Space Station, and bringing home over 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg).[17] In addition to her other duties, Morgan participated in twenty-minute amateur radio question-and-answer sessions with young people at the Discovery Center of Idaho and other centers, and joined Mission Specialist Alvin Drew in an education event with young people at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria, Virginia.[18][19] The event was hosted by June Scobee, widow of Space Shuttle Challenger's commander, Richard "Dick" Scobee. The center honored Morgan with the President George H.W. Bush Leadership Award. STS-118 landed successfully at Kennedy Space Center on August 21, a day ahead of schedule due to concerns about Hurricane Dean.[20][21][22]

Post-NASA career[edit]

On June 28, 2008, Morgan announced that she would leave NASA for a teaching job at Boise State University. In August 2008, Morgan took a full-time position as a distinguished educator in residence; a dual appointment to BSU's colleges of engineering and education. There she advises, leads and represents the university in policy development, advocacy and fund-raising in science, technology, engineering and math.[23]

On July 4, 2008, Morgan received the "Friend of Education" award from the National Education Association. The following month, Barbara R. Morgan Elementary School opened in McCall, Idaho.[24]

She appeared on the 2020 Netflix documentary miniseries Challenger: The Final Flight.[25]

Awards and honors[edit]

Morgan received the Adler Planetarium Women in Space Science Award in 2008.[26]

Actress Mary Chris Wall portrayed Morgan in the 1990 television film Challenger.

Personal life[edit]

Morgan is married to writer Clay Morgan of McCall, Idaho;[27] they have two sons. She is a classical flutist who also enjoys jazz, literature, hiking, swimming, and cross-country skiing.[2][28][29]


  1. ^ "The story of Barbara Morgan, the first teacher in space". PBS NewsHour. January 28, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  2. ^ a b NASA (July 2010). "BARBARA RADDING MORGAN, NASA ASTRONAUT (FORMER)" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  3. ^ Ellis, Lee (2002). Who's who of NASA astronauts (1st ed.). River Falls, WI: Americana Group Pub. p. 131. ISBN 0966796144.
  4. ^ Dunn, Marcia (November 6, 2003). "NASA's Barbara Morgan Still Grounded Following Tragedy". Space.com. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  5. ^ Banke, Jim (May 21, 2002). "Barbara Morgan Rides Wave of Fame, Awaits Flight Assignment". Space.com. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  6. ^ ARRL (August 7, 2007). "Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan, KD5VNP, Gets Ready to Launch into Space". ARRL Amateur Radio. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  7. ^ QRZ (2003). "Barbara Morgan - HAM Radio information". QRZ.com. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2007.
  8. ^ Woodward, Tim. "Disaster halts teacher's chance to fly — again", Florida Today, February 2, 2003, page 10A.
  9. ^ Michael Griffin (2007). "STS-118 Post-landing news conference - Comments by Dr. Michael Griffin, Administrator of NASA". NASA TV Post-landing news conference - August 21, 2007. NASA.
  10. ^ Franklin, Marcia (August 1, 2007). "Parabolic Tales: An Idaho journalist endeavors to tell an astronaut's story". Boise weekly. Archived from the original on August 10, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  11. ^ NASA (2006). "Preflight Interview: Barbara Morgan". NASA. Archived from the original on August 25, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  12. ^ NASA. "Second preflight Interview with Barbara Morgan". NASA. Archived from the original on September 20, 2007. Retrieved August 13, 2007.
  13. ^ Associated Press (August 7, 2007). "After 22-year wait, teacher ready for space trip". CNN. Archived from the original on September 18, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  14. ^ Malik, Tariq (August 22, 2007). "Teacher-Astronaut, Crewmates Glad to be Home". Space.com. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  15. ^ "Teacher-astronaut takes mission to Disney". CNN / Associated Press. Associated Press. 2007. Archived from the original on September 17, 2007. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  16. ^ NASA (August 9, 2007). "STS-118 Status Report 01". NASA. Archived from the original on August 23, 2007. Retrieved August 13, 2007.
  17. ^ NASA (August 14, 2007). "STS-118 Status Report #13". NASA. Archived from the original on August 23, 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2007.
  18. ^ NASA (2007). "Barbara Morgan Talks With Students on Ham Radio". NASA. Archived from the original on August 22, 2007. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  19. ^ Schwartz, John (August 15, 2007). "Astronaut Teaches in Space, and Lesson Is Bittersweet". New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  20. ^ Malik, Tariq (August 18, 2007). "Astronauts Primed for Shorter Spacewalk at ISS". Space.com. Future US, Inc. Archived from the original on April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  21. ^ prlog.org (August 21, 2007). "Welcome Home Barbara Morgan; More Teachers Should Fly". Space Frontier Foundation/US Rocket Academy. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  22. ^ Space Frontier Foundation (August 8, 2007). "Godspeed Barbara Morgan; Plans for Large Numbers of Teachers in Space". Space Frontier Foundation. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved August 22, 2007.
  23. ^ Clem, Kylie; Yembrick, John (June 27, 2008). "H08-161: Astronaut Barbara Morgan to Leave NASA". NASA News. NASA. Archived from the original on April 27, 2021. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  24. ^ Barbara R. Morgan Elementary School Archived January 6, 2022, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  25. ^ Challenger: The Final Flight episode 2 recap – “HELP!”, Ready Steady Cut, September 16, 2020
  26. ^ Mullen, William (May 1, 2008). "Adler award honors teacher-astronaut's grit". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved July 20, 2020.
  27. ^ "McCall man wins fiction contest". Lewiston Morning Tribune. May 8, 1983. p. 2E.
  28. ^ NASA (2007). "STS-118 Education Resources". NASA. Archived from the original on September 13, 2007. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  29. ^ spacefacts.de (2007). "Spacefacts: Astronaut Biography: Barbara Morgan". spacefacts.de. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 12, 2007.

External links[edit]