Yesterday, teacher (or, as this critical TIME article points out, “former teacher”) Barbara Morgan blasted off toward the International Space Station aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. The plan is for Ms. Morgan to complete the “Teacher in Space” mission that ended tragically for educator Christa McAuliffe and the crew of Challenger in 1986.
In order to get permission to fly, Ms. Morgan had to actually quit her teaching job and become an astronaut full time. While NASA is really promoting the Teacher in Space thing, Morgan hasn’t actually been in a classroom as a teacher since 1998. She’s been training as a scientist, and serving as something as an ambassador for NASA. TIME Magazine isn’t totally into the mission, or the Space Shuttle program in general. One interesting side aspect of the mission, though, is that Morgan will return with basil seeds that have spent 11-14 days in orbit. She’ll then distribute the seeds to classrooms around the country, and the kids will contribute data to NASA on how zero-gravity has affected height and growth rates. Fun stuff.