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Shuttle Endeavour Lifts Off with Teacher Aboard

Astronauts make their way to the launch pad/AP. i

Commander Scott Kelly, right, leads the STS-118 crew from the Operations and Checkout Building on their way to Launch Pad 39A and space shuttle Endeavour at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Terry Renna/AP Photos hide caption

toggle caption Terry Renna/AP Photos
Astronauts make their way to the launch pad/AP.

Commander Scott Kelly, right, leads the STS-118 crew from the Operations and Checkout Building on their way to Launch Pad 39A and space shuttle Endeavour at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Terry Renna/AP Photos

Space shuttle Endeavour blasted off on schedule Wednesday, carrying teacher and astrounaut Barbara Morgan and her crewmates into orbit. Morgan has waited more than 20 years to carry out the dream of her friend and fellow teacher Christa McAuliffe.

Morgan was McAuliffe's backup as teacher-in-space when Challenger blew up shortly after liftoff in 1986. She returned to teaching elementary school in Idaho, but came back to NASA as a full-time astronaut in 1998.

Endeavour and its crew of seven rose from the seaside pad right on time at 6:36 p.m. ET. The crew is expected to reach the International Space Station on Friday.

Immediately after the Endeavour reached orbit, Mission Control announced, "For Barbara Morgan and her crewmates, class is in session."

Morgan's boss saluted her Wednesday for "her toughness, her resiliency" and "her persistence," as Morgan prepared to lift off for her first space flight.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told the Associated Press he's glad to see the former teacher on the flight of Endeavour that's set to blast off this evening.

Morgan is now a fully qualified astronaut; she will work as a mission specialist. During her flight, Morgan will answer questions from schoolchildren.

Griffin said he has not spoken with McAuliffe's family about Morgan's launch, but that he did meet last night with several other Challenger family members. He says "they seem to regard Barbara as one of them" — adding, "They didn't act like they came to see another tragedy."

With reporting from NPR and the Associated Press.

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