Barbara Morgan, a close friend of high school teacher Christa McAuliffe who perished in the Challenger disaster of 1986, will help the crew lay out spars for new solar panels to be attached to and operate the manipulator arm. She will also be carrying seeds and other materials that will be used back on earth to interest children in space.
"We first tap in to kids’ curiosity," said Morgan.
"As a teacher, you want to start with what it is your students already know and what it is that they want to learn. And we hope that, and know that they have lots and lots of questions and curiosities about spaceflight and about space exploration and where we go into the future; where they go into the future."
Morgan is a fully trained astronaut and has the specialist designation Educator Astronaut. There are three other teachers in training for the role.
She was McAuliffe's back-up for the Challenger flight and opted to stay in the programme after the shuttle's destruction. She also worked alongside NASA's Education Office and served on the National Science Foundation's Federal Task Force for Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering.
Morgan had a conversation with the United States president's wife Laura Bush, who expressed congratulations from one schoolteacher to another and noted that she and the President appreciate Ms. Morgan's commitment to America's space programme.
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