- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Jan. 21 (UPI) — NASA is looking for a few good teachers to send to space, agency officials announced Tuesday.

Seeking to add more elementary school teachers to its elite astronaut corps, the agency unveiled a national recruitment program to encourage students, teachers and the general public to make nominations for the plum post.

NASA currently has one educator-astronaut, Barbara Morgan, who joined the astronaut corps in 1998. Morgan originally trained as the backup to NASA's first Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffee, who died in the 1986 Challenger accident. Morgan has been assigned to her first spaceflight, a space station assembly mission slated for November.

The point of the program is to encourage students to study math, science, engineering and technology.

"When you look at the performance levels of the students in our nation's classrooms and when you consider the deficits in our workforce it is absolutely essential that we get more students involved, in the pipeline, and available through various career paths to address our workforce issues," said NASA's associate administrator for education, Adena Williams Loston. "Education has always been a part of NASA's mission."

Added NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, "Our purpose is to inspire the next generation of explorers."

Nominations will be accepted until April 30 and can be made through the agency's new program Web site, edspace.nasa.gov. Information also is available by calling a new toll-free number, (877)-EDASTRO.

The agency plans to hire three to six teachers, with salaries ranging from about $51,000 to $94,500 per year. They will become part of an as-yet unselected group of astronauts slated to join the agency in 2004, said Johnson Space Center spokesman James Hartsfield.

Educator-astronaut candidates must be U.S. citizens and certified teachers with at least three years of classroom teaching experience within the past four years.

Candidates also must hold a bachelor's degree in education, physical science, biological science, engineering or mathematics from an accredited college or university. Nominees also will have to pass a NASA physical examination.

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