Next private person to fly in space program could be a teacher

Walter Cronkite thought he might be the one. He could have told us ``the way it is'' - from Earth orbit.

Mr. Cronkite was among 1,703 journalists who had entered NASA's dream-assignment sweepstakes before space shuttle Challenger exploded Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members. The victims included Christa McAuliffe, the Concord, N.H., teacher selected to be the first ordinary American in space.

NASA put the Journalist-In-Space selection process on hold six months later and it's still on hold.

If a private citizen does fly aboard the shuttle anytime soon, officials said it likely will be Barbara Morgan, a third-grade teacher from McCall, Idaho, who's designated as the next teacher in space.

All 40 finalists from the jouralists program are living but many either have changed professions or may be too old to endure 7.7 million pounds of thrust while thundering into orbit.

If the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ever revives the project, several on the list said they were still interested, including Cronkite, now 78. He recently said there would be nothing more exciting than to see Earth from space.

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