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Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars (DVD Review)

14 May, 2009 By: John Latchem

Christa McAuliffe

Street 5/19/09
Passion River
$19.95 DVD
Not rated.
Narrated by Susan Sarandon.

Tragic circumstances etched into history the name Sharon Christa McAuliffe, one of seven souls lost in the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Jan. 28, 1986. Schools were renamed for her. Heck, even I went to McAuliffe Middle School. But beyond recognition of the name and the tragedy, how much do we really know about her?

Reach for the Stars fills in these details with a touching biography of the woman who would have been the first teacher in space. The program was produced as a special for CNN in 2006, the 20th anniversary of her death, and includes songs by Carly Simon, who was one of McAuliffe’s favorite singers.

The timing of this DVD release is curious, as it doesn’t seem to coincide with any specific event, but at least it’s out there.

The documentary covers her life from her youth in Framingham, Mass., to becoming a teacher in New Hampshire, where she devoted extra attention to special education and children with disabilities. Her unique dedication made her an ideal candidate for the teacher in space program.

In her preparation for the ultimate field trip, the special delivers stirring footage of her watching a shuttle lunch, then appearing on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.”

There’s a tinge of sadness watching McAuliffe prepare for her mission, as viewers get a good sense of what her role would have been. Her excitement transforms into overwhelming sorrow in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster, as we see the reaction to the tragedy from her loved ones.

Christa McAuliffe never reached the stars, but this DVD serves as a testament to her enduring spirit and the continuing essence of exploration it represents.

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