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Soaring with McAuliffe, America's First Teacher in Space

Aug 29, 2017 03:14PM ● By David Dunbar

Judith Kalaora as Christa McAuliffe

story & photo by Dave Dunbar, Contributing Writer

You may recall that the shuttle Challenger, sent into space by NASA, exploded shortly after take-off on January 28, 1986. McAuliffe, “America’s First Teacher in Space,” died along with everyone else onboard.

Judith Kalaora, in a one-woman performance at the Bellingham Senior Center, enacted the various stages of McAuliffe’s life from Girl Scout through marriage and child-bearing to acceptance by NASA and preparations to enter outer space.

She quoted McAuliffe: “I watched the space age being born and I would like to participate.”  On the final day to apply to NASA to become an astronaut, McAuliffe sent in her application—and was accepted shortly thereafter.

Ask most people about Christa McAuliffe and they can recall exactly where they were when the Challenger shuttle launched, and then exploded in space. She was an educational pioneer, and her goals and accomplishments are explored in this multi-media experience, which debuted last year in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Challenger launch.

Kalaora travelled to McAuliffe’s hometown of Framingham, and to where she lived in Concord, NH, to discover the story behind the beloved teacher and American pioneer in space. Kalaora shared Christa’s spirit with about a dozen people in attendance at the Senior Center.
After the performance, several in the audience came up to share personal experiences regarding the shuttle flight.
Kalaora is the founder and director of History At Play, which she created to educate and entertain students young and old from all over the world.  These living-history performances breathe life into the stories of influential, and often forgotten, women. Kalaora plays many of the leading roles.

And who today might be worthy of such a performance 20 years into the future?  Kalaora thought for a moment and then came up with this name:  Malala Yousafzai. “Wise beyond her years,” Malala (born July 12, 1997) is the Pakistani activist for female education and youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate who almost died after being shot by a Taliban gunman in 2012. Her advocacy has since grown into an international movement.

History At Play offers many different performances for a variety of occasions, including corporate events, fundraisers, and private parties. “CHALLENGER: Soaring with Christa McAuliffe” has two more performances scheduled for this year: in Revere, on October 19 and in Brighton, on October 25.  You can learn more about History At Play by visiting





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