Sharon Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986) was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to become the first private citizen to fly on the Space Shuttle as part of the Teacher in Space Program. McAuliffe was assigned to be part of the crew of Space Shuttle Mission STS-51L aboard the Challenger (OV-99) and was scheduled to conduct experiments as well as teach lessons from space that would be broadcast to schoolchildren via closed-circuit television. On January 28, 1986, the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch when a external fuel booster failed. All seven members of the crew died.
Marcia Holland was a teacher at Central Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas who wrote a letter to Christa McAuliffe wishing her well and telling her that Holland's students were keeping journals similar to that McAuliffe planned to keep during her flight onboard the Space Shuttle.