In 1982, in an effort to spark new interest in the space shuttle program, NASA began discussions on including private citizens in the space program. On August 27, 1984, President Reagan announced the official formation of the Teacher in Space Project. More than 11,000 teachers applied to be considered for the program.
By June 0f 1985, NASA had chosen 114 semifinalists to be the first teacher in space. This selection included two teachers from each state. Later, a review panel chosen by NASA and the Council of Chief State School Officers selected 10 finalists. On July 18, 1985, NASA chose Christa McAuliffe as the flight candidate for the program and Barbara R. Morgan as her alternate.
After the challenger accident, NASA decided to cancel the Teacher in Space Project. They also cancelled similar programs, such as an upcoming Journalist in Space program. Barbara Morgan continued her yearly physicals in order to keep in flight-ready condition in the unlikely event that the program was to ever be reinstated.
On January 16, 1998, an announcement was made that Barbara Morgan would report for training as a mission specialist for a future shuttle mission. NASA Administrator Dan Goldin said that he had some reservations initially about putting civilians into space, mainly due to the lack of training. "One of the issues I personally had with the civilian-in-space program was the lack of full training," he said. "That is why [Morgan] is going to become a fully trained mission specialist."
Goldin said other civilians would be considered for future missions. He placed a special emphasis on scientists, including biologists and geologists. "We're trying to get biologists and geologists, because of the tremendous finding we're having in planetary science," Goldin said. These people would also be fully trained as astronauts.
On August 8, 2007, the space shuttle Endeavour lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center to begin mission STS-118 with teacher Barbara Morgan on board. After a delay of 21 years, the Teacher in Space program was back on track. Barbara spent nearly thirteen days in space as Endeavour docked with the International Space Station. During her mission, she participated in a number of educational activities with students back on Earth. She helped to fulfill the legacy of Christa McAuliffe and pave the way for more civilian missions in space.