30 years since Challenger, teacher-in-space finalists gather

Published: Jan. 28, 2016 at 8:11 AM EST
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Among those who've remembered the seven Challenger astronauts today at Cape Canaveral in Florida are dozens of educators who had competed with Christa McAuliffe to become the first teacher in space.

McAuliffe and the other crew members died aboard Challenger 30 years ago today, after an explosion a little more than a minute into the flight.

Her son Scott, who is now 39, took part in the emotionally charged ceremony. It was held on a bleak, drizzly morning just six miles from where the shuttle blasted off.

Retired teacher William Dillon represented California in the competition back in the mid-1980s. He was at Kennedy Space Center for Challenger's launch, and had gotten to know not only McAuliffe but a few of the other astronauts on the doomed flight. Today, he said it was "really hard" to be back.

Afterward, Scott McAuliffe and other children of the Challenger dead laid a wreath at the outdoor Space Mirror Memorial. McAuliffe, who works in education technology in Maine, said having his own two sons there with him - ages 6 and 8 - made it easier. It's time, he said, that his children see and learn firsthand all about astronauts and the space program.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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