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Challenger STS-51L: Home

A guide to highlight and provide context for the Challenger STS-15L collection of images, ephemera, and documents in the Framingham State University Digital Commons Repository.

About This Guide

The purpose of this guide is to highlight and provide context to the Challenger STS-51L collection of images, ephemera, and documents in the Framinagham State University Digital Commons Repository. In addition to images, ephemera, and documents from the collection you will find additional primary and secondary sources relating to the Challenger STS-51L mission and disaster and resources for teachers interested in incorporating these materials into their curricula.  

This guide is for students, educators, or anyone interested in learning more about the Challenger Sts-51L mission and disaster, the Teacher in Space Program, or Christa McAuliffe.

A note on reading levels in this guide

Average reading levels, given in grade traditional U.S. grade levels, have been provided for many of the resources linked in this guide. Readability was calculated using  readable.io

A majority of the resources in this guide are at or above the high school level. Some of the resources may still be accessible by younger students and resources for younger students (upper elementary school and middle school aged) have been provided on their own page.  

Images from Framingham State University Digital Commons Repository Challenger STS-51L collection

Christa McAuliffe in the Shuttle Mission Simulator

Sharon Christa McAuliffe, the Teacher In Space Payload Specialist from Concord, New Hampshire, trains for the STS 51-L mission in the Shuttle Mission Simulator (SMS). She is seated in the mission specialist's station behind the pilot's station. Astronaut Michael J. Smith, pilot for STS 51-L, mans his station in left foreground.

--Caption by the Johnson Space Center.

This image has been cataloged by the Johnson Space Center as Photo ID: S85-44465

Floating and Training for Weightlessness

Sharon Christa McAuliffe, STS-51L citizen observer/payload specialist, representing the Teacher in Space Project, floats forward and upward during a few moments of weightlessness aboard a KC-135 aircraft. The flight is part of her training for the scheduled five-day flight aboard the Challenger in January of next year. Barbara R. Morgan, backup payload specialist for STS-51L, is partially visible in the background. The photo was taken by Keith Meyers of the New York Times.

--Caption by the Johnson Space Center.

This photograph has been cataloged by the Johnson Space Center as Photo ID: S86-25180.

Challenger Crew Group Photo

Crew members are (left to right, front row) astronauts Michael J. Smith, Francis R. (Dick) Scobee and Ronald E. McNair; Ellison S. Onizuka, S. Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis and Judith A. Resnik.

This photograph has been cataloged by the Johnson Space Center under Photo ID: S85-44253

STS-51L TRAINING VIEW: Sharon Christa McAuliffe, STS-51L citizen observer/payload specialist, get s a preview of microgravity during a special flight aboard NASA’s KC-135 “zero gravity” aircraft. McAuliffe will represent the Teacher in Space Project aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger when it launches later this month.

--Caption by the Johnson Space Center.

This photograph was taken by Keith Meyers of the New York Times.

This photograph was cataloged by the Johnson Space Center as Photo ID: S86-25196.

Low Gravity Group Photo

This flying "human chain" represents prime and backup payload specialists for two upcoming STS missions. The group, representing trainees for STS-61C later this year and STS-51L early next year, shared some 40 parabolas in NASA's KC-135, "Zero-G" aircraft on Nov. 20, 1985. Left to right are Gerard Magilton, RCA backup payload specialist for STS-61C; Sharon Christa McAuliffe, payload specialist/teacher citizen observer for STS-51L; U.S. Representative Bill Nelson (D., Florida), scheduled for 61C; Barbara R. Morgan, backup to McAuliffe; and Robert J. Cenker, RCA payload specialist for 61C.

--Caption by Johnson Space Center.

This photo has been cataloged by Johnson Space Center as Photo ID: S85-44834.

Challenger Crew Group Photo

The STS 51-L crew poses for a portrait while training at Kennedy Space Center's (KSC) Launch complex 39, Pad B. They are standing in the White Room during a break in countdown training.

Left to right are Teacher-in-Space payload specialist S. Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist.

--Caption from the Johnson Space Center.

This photograph has been cataloged by the Johnson Space Center as Photo ID: S86-30460.

Barbara Practices with the Arriflex Motion Picture Camera

Teacher in Space Training View --- Teacher Barbara R. Morgan focuses on a subject during her hands-on experience with an Arriflex motion picture camera following a briefing on space photography. Morgan began training September 10, 1985 learning basic procedure for space travelers. The second week of training included camera training, aircraft familiarization and other activities.

-- Caption from Johnson Space Center

Johnson Space Center has cataloged this image as: S85-40671.

Christa McAuliffe and Barbara Morgan Train with Airriflex Camera

Christa McAuliffe and Barbara Morgan learn handling of the Airiflex motion picture camera used on Shuttle flights. Johnson Space Center has cataloged this image as: S85-41033.

Christa McAuliffe in the Shuttle Mission Simulator

Sharon Christa McAuliffe, the Teacher in Space Payload Specialist from Concord, New Hampshire, trains for the STS 51-L mission in the Shuttle Mission Simulator (SMS). She is being briefed about the consoles and controls that operate the SMS in JSC's Mission Simulation and Training facility.

Johnson Space Center has cataloged this image as Photo ID: S85-44580.

Christa Practices with the Arriflex Motion Picture Camera

McAuliffe zeroes in on a test subject during a practice session with the Arriflex motion picture camera.

Photo ID: S85-40670.

Hands-On Experience Shooting with Arriflex Camera

Christa McAuliffe (left) and Barbara Morgan having hands-on experience with an Arriflex motion picture camera following a briefing on space photography. 
Johnson Space Center has cataloged this image as: S85-4066.8

Liftoff of the Shuttle Challenger for STS 51-L Mission (3)

Orbiter has just left Launch Pad 39B. Large tank of liquified hydrogen is visible at the water's edge in the right side of the view.

--Caption from Johnson Space Center.

This image has been cataloged by Johnson Space Center as Photo ID: 51L(S)155 / 51L-S-155

Christa McAuliffe in the T-38 jet trainer

Christa McAuliffe gets a unique view of the Gulf of Mexico as she enjoys a familiarization flight in the rear station of a NASA T-38 jet trainer. Part of Galveston Island and the Greater Houston Metropolitan area can be seen in the background.

The photo was taken with the stationary camera of Keith Meyers of the New York Times.

This image has been cataloged by the Johnson Space Center as Photo ID: S86-25178.