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114 Teachers Cram for Chance to Join January Shuttle Flight

Associated Press

More than 100 teachers went back to school Sunday for a crash course toward a goal only one will achieve: a trip into space aboard the shuttle Challenger.

“We’re putting you through a little pressure this week,” Alan Ladwig, manager of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s space flight participation program, told the teachers. “But we hope it’s going to be a fun experience for you.”

The schedule for the 114 teachers includes daily workshops and lectures, interspersed with fetes at the National Air and Space Museum today, a reception with members of Congress on Tuesday and a White House ceremony Wednesday.

Eclectic Group of Judges

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But the pressure will also come Wednesday when an eclectic group of 20 judges--including actress Pam Dawber, who lived with a visitor from outer space on the television show “Mork and Mindy,” and former basketball star Wes Unseld--chooses 10 finalists for the shuttle flight scheduled to lift off next Jan. 22.

Among the other judges are three university presidents, three former astronauts and artificial heart inventor Dr. Robert K. Jarvik.

Each teacher will face two separate judges for 15 minutes each.

“I did have trouble going to sleep last night,” confessed Ellen M. Baerman, a fourth-grade teacher from Wisconsin Hills Elementary School in Brookfield, Wis.

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Two teachers were chosen from each state, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories from among 10,463 applicants.

Half Teach Science

The teachers range in age from 27 to 65. There are 59 men and 55 women. Seventeen are elementary school teachers, 20 teach in junior high schools and 77 in high schools. Half teach science.

NASA will announce the 10 finalists July 1. Over the following two weeks, they will undergo medical tests at the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, fly on a jet that simulates weightlessness and attend more briefings.

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James M. Beggs, administrator of NASA, then will make the final choice of one teacher and a backup in August. Their training will start in September.

Each teacher had to propose an experiment for the shuttle. The finalist may get to work the shuttle’s cameras, but part of the teacher’s duties will be “to sit in the mid-deck and stay out of the way” when the regular crew is deploying a satellite, said Carolyn Huntoon, associate director of the Johnson Space Flight Center.


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