‘I Still Can’t Believe That I’m Going’

February 05, 1986 1 min read

In a July 22, 1985, interview on NBC-TV’s “Today” show, Christa McAuliffe discussed her selection by NASA with Bryant Gumbel. Excerpts from the network’s transcript follow:

Gumbel: Simple question: Why you?

McAuliffe: It’s really hard to say. There were 10 people. We were such a cohesive group, enthusiastic, really enjoying teaching. I think anyone of us would have done a really good job. I don’t know what put me over the top, but I’m delighted to be here.

Gumbel: When you first applied for this, did you think you had even a prayer?

McAuliffe: I really didn’t. I was almost doing it kind of like when you play the lottery. If you don’t play it, you don’t win. And when I filled out that application, that’s really how I felt. I figured there’d be at least 50,000 people across the country who would be slipping that into the mailbox around the same time I did it.

Gumbel: What about when you made it down to the last 10? Did you think, then, maybe?

McAuliffe: Well, then the possibility became very real, and I really started to think what the impact would be on my teaching career and on my family. But it was still really exciting.

Gumbel: Has it all hit you, yet?

McAuliffe: No. No. I don’t think so. I still can’t believe that I am going to actually be going into that shuttle. It just really doesn’t seem possible. Maybe when I’m on the launch pad it will.

Gumbel: What are you most excited about?

McAuliffe: Seeing that Earth from that perspective. You know, it’s such a big place, here, but being able to look at it from a new perspective. And I hope I could bring that wonder and that excitement back to the students.

Gumbel: Maybe just a little bit of fright, too?

McAuliffe: Not yet. Maybe when I’m strapped in and those rockets are going off underneath me there will be, but space flight today really seems safe. We had a good example of that when NASA shut down the last one through the computer because one of the back-up systems wasn’t working.

A version of this article appeared in the February 05, 1986 edition of Education Week