Born and raised in Fresno, California
Barbara Morgan is an educator and retired NASA astronaut. She trained with the “Challenger” crew as the back-up for Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe, and later served as a NASA astronaut for 10 years. She is now Distinguished Educator in Residence, Emeritus, at Boise State University.
Morgan graduated with honors and a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Stanford University then earned her teaching credential at College of Notre Dame in Belmont, California. She taught public school for 24 years in diverse locations including the Bay Area in California, the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, a small mountain town in Idaho, and Colegio Americano in Quito, Ecuador. In 1985, Morgan (back-up) and Christa McAuliffe (Teacher in Space) were selected to train with the space shuttle “Challenger” crew. After that mission ended tragically shortly after lift-off with the loss of the crew, NASA asked Morgan to continue as Teacher in Space Designee. She returned to her teaching in Idaho and continued to work for NASA part-time, where her duties included public speaking, educational consulting, curriculum design, and serving on the National Science Foundation’s Task Force for Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering.
NASA selected Morgan to the 1998 astronaut class. She flew 5.3 million miles in space in 2007 on STS-118, a two-week mission to help construct the International Space Station. Her duties included operating the space shuttle and space station robotic arms, serving as loadmaster, assisting the pilots with re-entry and landing, and teaching lessons from orbit to schoolchildren on Earth. She also worked in Mission Control as prime communicator (“Capcom”) with on-orbit crews and served in the Space Station Operations Branch and Robotics Branch of the Astronaut Office.
Upon retiring from NASA in 2008, Morgan became Distinguished Educator in Residence at Boise State University, where she represented the university and provided leadership to the State of Idaho, primarily in STEM education. Her work included policy and program development, advocacy, and mentoring. Currently, Morgan works with the university as Emeritus, and continues to work with national and international education organizations, other non-profits, and NASA.
Morgan’s many awards include the Columbia University Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service and the inaugural Idaho Medal of Achievement, the state’s highest civilian honor for service. She has earned two honorary doctorates—in science and public service—and has two public schools named after her.