'The Challenger': New film to tell Christa McAuliffe's inspiring, tragic story

New Hampshire Union Leader
October 05. 2018 6:59PM
Michelle Williams will portray Christa McAuliffe in Argent Picture's new film, "The Challenger." 

The space shuttle Challenger lifts off on its final flight Jan. 28, 1986. The spacecraft exploded 73 seconds after launch. (NASA)

None of the students, and very few of the parents, who walk into the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center these days have any memory of 1986.

The same is true at Concord High School, where Christa McAuliffe taught for years before winning the opportunity to become the first teacher to travel into space.

But both institutions make sure that their students and visitors know about McAuliffe when they leave. Yes, they learn about the tragedy of the Challenger shuttle explosion that killed her and six other astronauts on Jan. 28, 1986, but more importantly they learn about McAuliffe's life and mission leading up to that point.

That's why those tasked with preserving McAuliffe's legacy were excited, but a bit nervous, when Deadline Hollywood reported last week that "The Challenger," a major motion picture about the teacher's life, is in the works.

"I'm both excited and apprehensive," said Jeanne Gerulskis, executive director of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. "Excited because I think that Christa McAuliffe was an amazing person and her life has inspired so much. ... The part that makes me a little anxious is that all of us have to leave this planet someday - we're all going to die - and when we do we want those who are left behind to remember us for all the things that we care about, all the things we did, not how we died. And that's something that gets too emphasized with Christa McAuliffe - how she died and not how she lived."

The upcoming film by California-based Argent Pictures, which does not yet have a release date, will focus on the "incredible journey she took from her classroom to becoming a member of the Space Shuttle Challenger crew," according to a blurb on the company's website.

Actress Michelle Williams, a four-time Academy Awards nominee, will play McAuliffe. In 2012, she won a Golden Globe for best actress for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn."

She currently stars opposite Tom Hardy in "Venom," which is now in theaters.

Concord High School recognized the 30th anniversary of McAuliffe's accomplishment, and then the tragedy of the Challenger explosion, in 2016.

Kim Bleier, who helped organize the recognition, teaches a social studies class that McAuliffe helped shape.

"She's an important piece of Concord High history," Bleier said. "She was dedicated to her profession, to the kids at Concord High, and her family. I think the inspiration behind her story is a beautiful thing."

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