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UNH Experts Available to Discuss 25th Anniversary of Challenger Disaster
January 20, 2011
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DURHAM, N.H. – Two experts from the University of New Hampshire are available to discuss the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded Jan. 28, 1986, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members, including Concord (N.H.) High School teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was to become NASA’s first Teacher in Space.

Barry Rock
Professor in UNH’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space

Barry Rock can discuss Forest Watch, the innovative program that engages K-12 students in the process of doing real science and, 20 years later, is a living tribute to Christa McAuliffe’s legacy as a dedicated teacher. UNH’s Forest Watch program, launched in 1991 five years after the Challenger disaster, was spawned by a letter Rock received from a colleague of McAuliffe’s when he arrived at UNH in 1987 from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he had been doing shuttle-based remote sensing work. The program introduces K-12 students to hands-on collection and processing of field data of local trees and relates the data to air pollution damage in forest stands.

“Christa’s dream was to have students learn about their home planet by studying it from space,” Rock says, “and Forest Watch has allowed students across New England to do just that – learn about the health of their own trees by measuring them both from space and from hands-on measurements.”

Professor David Pillemer
Dr. Samuel E. Paul Professor of Developmental Psychology

David Pillemer can discuss memories of the Challenger disaster. Pillemer researches flashbulb memories, memories of public events such as the Challenger disaster, Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the Kennedy assassination. Research suggests that high emotion, importance, and rehearsal (thinking about or talking about the event) are key factors that lead to memory vividness and persistence. Studies also suggest that personal relevance -- the degree to which a person feels connected to the event -- also is a critical factor.

“Memories of the San Francisco earthquake are more vivid and consistent for people whose lives or the lives of loved ones were affected by the event. Memories of the Challenger explosion could be especially strong for children and families who felt a connection, such as Concord High students and families,” Pillemer says.
The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.


Media Contact: Lori Wright | 603-862-0574 | UNH Media Relations
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