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David Marquart, Teacher Astronaut

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In 1984 president Ronald Reagan announced NASA’s newest program, the Teacher in Space Project. The program’s goal was to promote student interest in math, science, and space. Almost 11,000 teachers from across the country applied in the hopes of going into space on the shuttle Challenger. The applicants were narrowed down to two teachers per state and territory, and eventually to ten finalists.

On this date in 1985, The Bismarck Tribune ran a story about finalist David Marquart, a high school teacher in Boise, Idaho. Mr. Marquart, originally from Indiana, had spent 12 years in Minot. He attended Minot High School and in 1965 graduated from Minot State College with a business education degree. He credited his time North Dakota for his success in making it as a finalist. He said, “I think that the work ethic I received while I was in North Dakota…stood me in very good stead, and I certainly have to look back with a lot of pleasure at the time…I spent in North Dakota.”

Marquart and the nine other finalists were flown to Johnson Space Center in Houston for medical testing and simulated weightlessness. Then it was on to Washington, DC for interviews. New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe was chosen from the 10 candidates. Tragically, she and six other crew members died when the Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff on January 28th, 1986.

Marquart and the other finalists were shaken by the tragedy. He was quoted as saying, “I guess we all feel we’re immortal until something like this happens.” However, he continued his advocacy for the space program. For three years after the tragedy he worked for NASA in California to help implement educational programs. For the remainder of his teaching career he attended NASA-sponsored workshops and spoke to school children about his experience.

After the explosion of space shuttle Columbia in 2003, Mr. Marquart expressed his sadness, but hoped that NASA would continue its mission to send astronauts into space. In 2005 he retired after 40 years of teaching. He was involved in Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol and a WWII museum. In 2008 he was back in North Dakota, giving the commencement speech at Minot State.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa

Sources:

Associated Press, “10 Teachers Make Grade as Finalists for Shuttle, Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1985.

Associated Press, “State Stunned but Thankful,” The Times-News, January 29, 1986.

Associated Press, “Teacher in Space Participant says NASA Should Continue Forward,” Kaliwisaks: She looks for News, February 6, 2003, pg. 1.

Associated Press, “Teacher: N.D. Education Prepared Me for Challenge,” The Bismarck Tribune, July 12, 1985.

Author Unknown, “NASA Finalist to Speak at May Commencement,” Connections: Minot State University Alumni Association & Development Foundation, Spring, 2008, pg. 7.

Author Unknown, “Teacher-in-Space,” https://www.worldspaceflight.com/bios/teacher.php, retrieved June 15, 2021.

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