July 1, 1985

10 Teacher-in-Space finalists announced

Helen Williams GephardtBoth Morgan and Marquart from Idaho were among the 10 finalists for the Teacher-in-Space program.

For Helen Williams (now Gephardt), who had selected both as Idaho's representatives, it was a joyous time. She remembers hearing her boss, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jerry Evans, after he had received a call from U.S. Senator Jim McClure notifying him of the news:

"I heard him say, "Oh, you don't mean it, what are you saying? Tell me again! Are you sure?" And his voice was so loud it just boomed all over the office and he came running out of his office and I was right there and he said, "We have two of the top 10 finalists"! Well he couldn't believe it, I couldn't either and I guess maybe that was probably the highest point of my professional career."

The 10 Teacher-In-Space Finalists Dave Marquart and Barbara Morgan at a National Education Association conference

"When the ten of us were chosen we had a national press conference," says Morgan. "Well, the very first question that came out was, "OK, you guys; how come two from Idaho?" And we were just really proud to be from Idaho and I think it speaks well for the education in this state."

The 10 finalists outside the KC-135 airplane, dubbed 'The Vomit Comet' Finalists Bob Foerster, Barbara Morgan and Christa McAuliffe

Judith GarciaThe press seemed to generally regard the program in a light-hearted manner, calling the finalists "teachernauts" who wanted to be modern-day "Peter Pans." "Send my teacher into space," pleaded one little boy in a cartoon.

On July 7, 1985, the finalists traveled to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for medical tests and a flight in the KC-135 airplane, which simulates weightlessness. From July 15-18, senior NASA officials in Washington, DC conducted the final interviews.

 

Watch "The Teachers Try Weightlessness" (July 1985)
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From the beginning, the group bonded.

"All of us were so different from each other in our own ways and had different ideas about what we wanted to do or could do; there was no real way to compete," said finalist Judith Garcia.

Read "10 teachers in line to 'play Peter Pan'" (USA Today; .pdf; 132 KB)