Indianapolis science teacher who applied to ride on Challenger remembers the tragedy

"Seems like it was yesterday."
Posted at 8:36 AM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 08:36:59-05

INDIANAPOLIS — It's been 35 years since the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, and WRTV spoke with a Wayne Township teacher who had been one of the thousands who applied to be on the flight.

All seven crew members aboard were killed, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, the first American civilian selected to space.

Rick Crosslin told us, "To me, it just seems like it was yesterday."

READ | 1986: Local students react to Challenger disaster |

Crosslin said, "When that terrible tragedy occurred. It was like, we knew something happened. We just couldn't accept that it had happened."

Crosslin said, "I remember when Reagan announced the 'Teacher in Space' program, I had already written like five letters to NASA, a bunch of teachers had, because teachers are crazy and we like to live and do what we teach."

WRTV asked Crosslin, "When the explosion happened, did you think that could have been me?"

He said, "Before I can think that everybody who loves me and knew me called me up and said I'm so glad Rick, you've got so many things that God has done something for you."

We also asked, "When you think of Christa McAuliffe, What do you think of?"

“Ah, she was like everybody's teacher and everybody's mom. She had a perspective of what this meant. So, she was representing all of us,” said Crosslin.

He also said that McAuliffe's death brought mixed emotions and renewed motivation to his mission as an educator.

"Really, it was a changing point for me because I re-dedicated myself to help teachers, and that's been my life, both kids and teachers and science education,” said Crosslin.

After the explosion, Crosslin said he started giving presentations at universities and diving into how the Challenger worked. He said it helped him process what went wrong during the space shuttle launch.

Now Crosslin teaches at every school in the Wayne Township School District, and his lessons help teach teachers and connect science to students.

"And I tell them. We will see a woman walk on the moon. I will see that before I die. And it could be you,” said Crosslin.

We asked Crosslin, "What do you hope people remember about the challenger?"

He said, "There is a risk to discovery. Science is the way we do that and through science. I think that we can make our world. such a better place."

A year's long investigation found the o-ring seals used in a solid rocket booster failed during liftoff.

So, when we asked if Crosslin would go on another space expedition, he said he'd go tomorrow. However, he wants others to go instead because they can do more with the information they collect in space.

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