ARLINGTON, VA April 12 – The Space Transportation Association today offered its congratulations to NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe for his decision to restore the Teacher in Space Program and launch educator Barbara Morgan aboard the Space Shuttle to the International Space Station in 2004. ‘The new Educator Mission Specialist Program is an historic step in the evolution of human spaceflight, and one that took courage. It is high time America complete the Challenger mission,” said STA President Frank Sietzen, Jr. “Administrator O’Keefe is to be applauded for having the vision and the initiative to continue this important effort in flying qualified passengers on the nation’s Shuttle fleet,” Sietzen said. “What a difference for the agency to have a strong leader,” he added.

O’Keefe announced Friday that Morgan, who was Christa McAuliffe’s back-up on the 1986 51-L Challenger mission, would fly as the first educator in a new program to send educators into space aboard the Shuttles and ultimately to the International Space Station. “We at STA offer to work with NASA and the U.S. Department of Education in helping to launch this new program, and to use the Shuttle and station to help inspire new generations of students and teachers,” Sietzen said. The Space Transportation Association has supported the evolution of the Space Shuttle program, and its membership includes the companies that both build Space Shuttle elements as well as operate the winged craft.

“No space mission is without risk,” Sietzen observed Friday. “But it is within the Shuttle’s role to continue to serve as a tool to expand our understanding of the microgravity environment,” he said. “Barbara Morgan’s historic voyage into history may be the latest step in using space to spark fresh interest in science, math, and technology. No one knows where this evolution will lead,” Sietzen predicted. “The recruitment effort will help galvanize the nation and the world’s interest in space flight, and that cannot help but be yet another positive contribution for the Shuttle program,” he added.

The Space Transportation Association is an Arlington, Virginia based trade organization whose members constitute the leading manufacturers and operators of space launch systems for payloads, satellites, and humans. Its primary objectives are to strengthen the U.S. space transportation industry and pursue low cost access to space for all Americans.