Most of New England was still feeling pretty glum on the morning of Tuesday, January 28, 1986, when the unthinkable happened.

It was one of those moments, like President John F. Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963, that you remember forever where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.

Many area sports fans had yet to recover from the pounding the New England Patriots had taken at the hands of the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX just two days before. New England was making its first trip to "the dance" and fans felt invincible. We lost 46-10.

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NASA's launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger that Tuesday morning was sure to lift our spirits. After all, the first civilian schoolteacher was aboard. She was Concord, New Hampshire's Christa McAuliffe.

Not only that, New Bedford's Richard "Dick" Methia had been a finalist for the Teacher in Space Program. Methia taught English at Normandin Junior High and New Bedford High School.

Methia was one of two Massachusetts teachers who applied to become the first teacher in space. Charles Sposato of Framingham was the other.

Teachers from all six New England states were among the 114 educators to compete to be the first private citizen – a teacher – in space.

New Bedford's Methia was one of 10 semi-finalists announced by NASA in July of 1985, as was Michael Metcalf of Hardwick, Vermont, and New Hampshire's McAuliffe.

New Bedford Teacher Was Finalist For Ill-Fated Shuttle Challenger
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Barbara Morgan of McCall, Idaho, a semi-finalist, became the backup if McAuliffe could not participate. That ended Methia's involvement with the Teacher in Space Program.

At 11:39 a.m. on Tuesday, January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida. All seven astronauts, including F. Richard Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnick, Gregory Jarvis, and McAuliffe, were killed.

The explosion, caused by O-ring seal failure due to cold weather and wind shear, ended the Teacher in Space Program and grounded the space shuttle fleet for years.

Following the Challenger explosion Methia, a freelance writer, worked for NASA's Challenger Center for 10 years before founding The Freelance Group. Methia and his wife were last known to be living in Virginia.

LOOK: 31 breathtaking images from NASA's public library

In 2017, NASA opened the digital doors to its image and video library website, allowing the public to access more than 140,000 images, videos, and audio files. The collection provides unprecedented views of space. Stacker reviewed the collection to select 31 of the most breathtaking images, including the first from the James Webb Space Telescope. Keep reading to see these stunning images, curated with further information about the captured scenes.

Gallery Credit: Deborah Brosseau

The International Space Station

Initially constructed in 1998, the International Space Station (ISS) is approximately 250 miles above the earth's surface, traveling at 17,500 mph. The ISS orbits Earth every 90 minutes and completes around 15 orbits daily.

Gallery Credit: Ed Nice

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