The Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF) hosted a “Day of Remembrance” Ceremony Jan. 28 on the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. They honored the crew of Challenger, as well as paid tribute to all of the astronauts who have sacrificed their lives for this nation and the space program. Former astronaut Barbara Morgan served as the keynote speaker, followed by an address from Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. R. Roger Rowe School Teacher David Warner was invited by NASA to attend the event.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan announced that a teacher would be chosen as the first private citizen to fly into space aboard a space shuttle. During the application period, more than 11,000 teachers applied. By June 1985, NASA had chosen 114 semifinalists, one of whom was David Warner who represented the state of Connecticut.
As a child, Warner said, he dreamed of flying in space. “My fourth grade teacher used to have my hearing checked on a regular basis because I would daydream in class. During our reading lessons, I would build great ships and blast off into outer space.”
Although he wasn’t selected, he was in the review stands at Cape Canaveral with Christa McAuliffe’s parents when the shuttle exploded shortly after liftoff.
Warner said, “I wondered if the other teacher finalists standing near me shared the same emotions that I did; the excitement of the launch, the camaraderie of teachers sharing a common goal, and the envy of one who would actually experience that which we could only dream. I wondered how many thought, ‘That could have been me.’”
Reflecting on spaceflight, Warner added, “Spaceflight always has been, and will be, risky. The crews of Challenger and Columbia embraced the risk in a shared pursuit of exploration and discovery. Today their legacy lives on as the International Space Station fulfills its promise as a symbol of hope for the world and a springboard to the next giant leap in exploration.”
During the years following his involvement with the Teacher in Space program, Warner helped form the Teacher in Space Foundation, which later merged with the Challenger Center (www.challenger.org), and taught for three summers at Stanford’s Space Sciences Academy. Warner taught in private schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts, before moving to San Diego. He began teaching at the R. Roger Rowe School in 1996 and helped form its robotics program four years ago.