This upcoming mission is called the "Barbara Morgan Mission" because she was the back up Educator in Space for Christa. This mission is special to Orange County because Tracy Caldwell is a grad from Cal State Fullerton and an OC Resident.
In 1986, Morgan returned to teaching for 12 years, while working with NASA's education program. But in 1998, she was accepted as a mission specialist. She no longer had a free ride as a teacher; she had to pull her weight to get a mission.
"I just know her as an astronaut from the astronaut office," Shuttle Commander Scott Kelly said Wednesday.
Kelly said Morgan won't focus on education during this mission.
"We could not do the flight if we had one person dedicated just to education," he said. "We need her to do space shuttle stuff."
Morgan, despite protests, has become the mission's star, a role she doesn't like.
"She has no control," Kelly said. "I know it bothers her when she hears things like, 'This is the Barbara Morgan mission.' It bothers her more than it bothers the rest of us."
While Morgan downplays her relationship with McAuliffe, Mission Specialist Tracy Caldwell openly credits the late teacher with setting her on a career path to become an astronaut.
The nation's first educator/astronaut showed Caldwell, then a high school student, that the astronaut corps wasn't limited to test pilots.
"She was a tremendous motivator," said Caldwell, who will choreograph the mission's spacewalks. "I didn't know Christa personally. It was what Christa represented.
"She was something so tangible to me."