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Explorers, Heros and Legends in Space

Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan

America's challenge of today has forged Man's destiny of tomorrow. -- Eugene Cernan

It's been more than three decades since December 1972 when U.S. astronauts Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt and Eugene A. Cernan were the last men to walk on the Moon. In fact, they spent more time on the lunar surface than any other Apollo crew.

Recruited seven years earlier to become one of NASA's first scientist-astronauts in 1965, Schmitt was the first geologist on the moon. His landing site on the Moon was a geologist's paradise known as the Taurus-Littrow valley. Their science tools included a cosmic ray detector, a meter to measure the composition of the thin lunar atmosphere, and a detector for meteorites and dirt thrown up from local impacts. During more than 22 hours outside the lunar lander vehicle, Schmitt and Cernan gathered 250 pounds of dirt and rocks to take back to Earth. On December 14, Cernan and Schmitt returned to the command module circling above them and returned to Earth.

Neil Armstrong

That's one small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind. -- Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong made that statement in 1969 upon being the first person to set foot on the Moon. The message was originally heard on Earth without the word "a" before "man," and was reported that way. Armstrong later made the correction.

Christa McAuliffe

School teacher Sharon Christa Corrigan McAuliffe, born at Boston, Mass., on Sept. 2, 1948, was selected in July 1985 to be the first private citizen to fly in space. Unfortunately, her highly publicized mission ended in disaster when the U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Jan. 28, 1986. McAuliffe and all six other crew members were killed.

A longtime space enthusiast, McAuliffe had attended Marion High School in Framingham, Mass., and had earned a bachelor's degree in education from Framingham State College in 1970. She taught junior high school students in suburban Maryland from 1970 to 1978 and also earned a master's degree in teaching administration from Bowie State College. After moving to Concord, N.H. in 1978, McAuliffe taught history and civics in the nearby town of Bow. She also served as president of the teachers' union there.

When President Ronald Reagan announced in mid-1984 that he wanted to send a teacher on a space flight to highlight the importance of the profession, McAuliffe was a social studies teacher at Concorde High School. She was selected from more than 11,000 teachers who applied for the shuttle mission.

The Columbia Seven

The U.S. space shuttle Columbia broke up 200,000 feet over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, as it descended from orbit into the atmosphere toward a landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seven astronauts aboard the shuttle were lost in the disaster.

Read about the Columbia tragedy

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