The space agency announced Monday that it will ask America's schoolchildren to recommend a name for the replacement for the shuttle Challenger, which exploded carrying the first teacher bound for orbit.
Construction of the new shuttle is scheduled to begin in August, and the space vehicle is scheduled to join the remaining three shuttles in the fleet in 1991.
The contest will be held during the 1988-89 school year and will be open to students in all states, U.S. territories, State Department overseas schools and schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
"It is fitting that students and teachers who shared in the loss of the space shuttle Challenger share in creation of its replacement," NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher said.
Among the seven crew members killed when Challenger exploded Jan. 28, 1986, was Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a high school social studies teacher from Concord, N.H. She had planned to conduct lessons from space for schoolchildren across the nation who watched the ill-fated launch on television.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is developing the program in response to a congressional resolution introduced last May by Rep. Tom Lewis (R-Fla.).
Challenger and the other three shuttles--Columbia, Discovery and Atlantis--were named after ships used in world exploration.