Shoot for the Stars

                                                            Act 1, Scene 1

(A class of 8th graders fill a classroom. In the center of the room is a black and white television. The year is 1961 and the students are watching the lift off of a space shuttle carrying Alan Shepard, the first U.S. astronaut in space.)

                                                            Mr. Jones

Wow, are you all watching this? Mr. Shepard is now in space! You should be proud of him; he sets a great example of America.

(A young girl in the middle of the classroom raises her hand.)

  
         
                                                Mr. Jones

Yes, Christa?

                                                             Christa

I want to be an astronaut, just like Mr. Shepard!


                                                          Mr. Jones

(Snorts)

 That is a joke, I hope.

                                                             Christa

No, it’s not a joke. Why can’t I be an astronaut?

 

                                                             Mr. Jones

Take a look at yourself. How are you different from Alan Shepard?

 

                                                             Christa

(Christa observes her body. She touches her hair.)

Well, I have dark brown hair, and he has light brown hair.

 

                                                            Mr. Jones

Yes, and what else?

                                                             Christa

I am thirteen years old and Mr. Shepard is not.

 

                                                             Mr. Jones

Okay, you’re getting there.

 

                                                            Christa

Ummm… another difference. I don’t have another one.

                                                             Mr. Jones

You are a woman, Christa! Mr. Shepard is a man!

 

                                                            Christa

Why does my gender matter, Mr. Jones?

 

                                                            Mr. Jones

Women can’t handle the unknowns of space! That’s a man’s job. Women are supposed to be housewives, or stay at home moms, or teachers. Not astronauts!
 

                                                            Christa

So you’re saying I could never be an astronaut?

 

                                                            Mr. Jones

That is exactly what I’m saying and I’m right!

 

                                                            Christa

Well I’ll prove you wrong one day, Mr. Jones!

 

                                                            Mr. Jones

(Laughs to himself)

 Yeah, right.

 

                                                            Scene 2

                                                                       

(The year is now 1966 and Christa is at school at Framingham State College in Massachusetts, as a history major. She is in a classroom with 30 other freshmen and her professor is giving a speech about the moon’s history. Christa is deeply engaged.)

 

                                                            Professor Brending

A word to describe the moon is lunar. While we’re on the topic of the moon, who here would like to go to there?

 

(Christa raises her hand quickly, alongside 10 of her classmates.)

 

                                                            Professor Brending

Well, you ambitious students suck it up. You will never get to the moon! You need to be smart, healthy, and you need to have connections to get there. None of you will ever see the face of the moon with your own eyes, so long as I live!

 

                                                            Christa

I believe I will be able to see it.

 

                                                            Professor Brending

Oh do you, Miss Corrigan?

 

                                                            Christa

Yes sir, I do. I believe that one day I will see the moon up close with my own two eyes, along with the stars and the-

  

                                                            Professor Brending

Oh stop dreaming, Christa, for of course no one will accept you, a delicate young woman to go up to space. That’s just how society is and how it’s meant to be. Men are far more superior to women. So don’t dream that you will ever be in the same position as a man. It’s a waste of time. 

 

                                                             Christa

Men are not superior to me, Professor Brending. Just because men are bigger, does not make me, a woman, any different. I have a brain, a strong body, and toughness too! Just because my sex is female, does not make me any weaker or dumber then men. And you know what, Professor Brending, I will shoot for the stars and I will make it beyond!


                                                            Scene 3

 

(Christa is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on a field trip she is taking with her social studies students from Concord High School where she teaches. A tour guide, named Mike, is showing the class of 20 students around a replica of a modern space shuttle.)

 

                                                            Mike

So that wraps up the space shuttle. Any questions?

 

(Mike takes some questions from a few curious students, while Christa wonders around the building reading signs about the Space Center. She finds one that reads ‘Looking for American Teachers to participate in 1986 space shuttle mission to the moon. Applicants must write a 5,000-word essay and submit a resume to be further evaluated. If interested, see NASA worker immediately to get forms. Deadline: June 17, 1984.’ Christa runs over to Mike.)

 

                                                            Christa

Sorry to interrupt, but I just saw a sign that said that NASA is looking for American teachers to be a part of a 1986 space shuttle mission, and I’m looking to apply, so can I get the forms from you?

 

                                                            Mike

(Looks Christa over from head to toe.)

If I were you, I wouldn’t waste my time applying.

 

                                                            Christa

Why not?

 

                                                            Mike

Well, a lot of people apply for these kinds of jobs. NASA is expecting over 10,000 teachers to apply. And, besides…

(Mike stops himself.)

 

                                                            Christa

And, besides… WHAT? What’s standing in my way? Why should I not apply? Why are you not giving me the forms?

  

                                                            Mike

It’s nothing. It’s just you’re a woman and NASA prefers men for space shuttle missions. So just don’t get your hopes up.

 

                                                            Christa

No, not this sexism again.

 

                                                            Mike

It’s not exactly sexism; it’s just that men can handle unknown situations better.

 

                                                            Christa

Yeah, stereotypical men can. But, we are different today. Women can do almost anything men can do. So give me a form, so I can apply!

 

                                                            Mike

I’m not giving you a form for your own benefit! It will take you a long time to complete, and then you’ll get your hopes crushed when you don’t get in.

 

                                                            Christa

I don’t need you telling me what and what not to do! Give me a form and my class will get out of here. I’m sure NASA doesn’t jump to conclusions about women, like you do, and I’m sure they won’t be happy hearing about your nasty attitude to visitors.

 

                                                            Mike

Fine, I’ll give you the applications, but when you don’t get to go up into space because you are a woman, don’t come back complaining to me!

 

                                                            Scene 4

 

(Christa is at her house in New Hampshire. She is writing fast on a pad of paper. Her husband, Steven McAuliffe, approaches her.)

 

                                                            Steven

Hey Christy, what are you doing?

  

                                                            Christa

I’m writing a draft of my essay for my application.

 

                                                            Steven

What application?

 

                                                            Christa

I didn’t tell you? NASA is looking for a teacher to go up into space on a 1986 space shuttle mission. Of course I’m entering.

 

                                                            Steven

I don’t think that is a good idea.

 

                                                            Christa

Why not? You know I’ve always been curious to explore the moon.

  

                                                            Steven

I know, I know. But going into space? Actual space? That’s just way to risky!

 
                                                             Christa

Steve, you are my husband! You have to be supportive of me! You know I’m tough and could handle any situation.

                                                            Steven

I want to be supportive of you. But just not on this space shuttle mission.

 

                                                              Christa

Why not? Are you saying that this trip is too risky because of my sex? Because I’m a woman? Because I’m too “weak”?

 

                                                             Steven

No, of course not! It’s just if something goes wrong on that mission, I can’t imagine life after that. I can’t imagine my life without you. I can’t imagine raising Scott and Caroline myself!

  

                                                            Christa

Isn’t it you who tells your students the most fearing thing you could do is have fear? Isn’t it you who tells your students that when you’re presented with an opportunity, take it? Isn’t it you who tells your students to follow their dreams?

 

                                                            Steven

Yes, yes, and yes. I said all of that.

                                                              Christa

This is my opportunity and my dream and you’re the one fearing it!

 

                                                             Steven

I see what you are saying, so apply. What kind of husband would I be, if I stood in the way of my wife’s dream? Besides, this is what life is all about, right? Taking chances.

 

                                                            Christa

Yes, life is all about taking chances.


                                                            Scene 5

 

(Christa is at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She is waiting in a room for an interview she will be having with the NASA director. She has recently been chosen as a finalist for the 1986 space shuttle mission. This interview will decide who gets the teacher position on the trip. The room is full of about twenty people, all men. A young woman comes in to the waiting room and motions for Christa to follow her. Christa gets up and follows the lady through a long twisting hallway. At the end of the hallway is a big office. Christa follows the lady into it. A large man with silver lenses sits in a big, mahogany desk. The walls are filled with pictures of great astronauts and space shuttles.)

  

                                                            Mr. Branchest

Hello. You must be Ms. Christa Corrigan McAuliffe.

 

                                                            Christa

Yes, I am.

 

                                                            Mr. Branchest

I’m Matthew Branchest, director at NASA. I understand that you are a finalist up for the 1986 shuttle mission.

 

(Christa nods.)

 

                                                            Mr. Branchest

So lets start with why you would like to be a part of the Challenger – that’s the name we decided on for the shuttle mission.

 

                                                            Christa

I want to be a part of the Challenger because I am very curious about the universe. I would like to see the world from a new perspective. The galaxy first inspired me when I saw Alan Shepard be the first American in space. I was in the eighth grade and ever since I wondered what in was like to see the earth from such a distance. I want the chance to see it.

  

                                                            Mr. Branchest

Tell me more about yourself.

 

                                                            Christa

I also want to prove to people that women could go up to space, not just men. Today when I walked into the waiting room before this interview I saw that all the other finalists were men. I think it would be great to send a female teacher into space.

 

                                                            Mr. Branchest

You are aware that it is a great controversy to send a woman with hardly any experience to space.

 

                                                            Christa

Why? Isn’t it a controversy to send anyone with hardly any experience to space? Why is it more of one if it’s a woman?

 

                                                            Mr. Branchest

It comes down to how the world sees women. Women are delicate. Women are gentle. Women are fragile. We don’t want to send a woman up to space for this long, it’ll cause too much of a commotion for NASA to handle. I’m sorry Ms. McAuliffe, but this job is really meant for a man.

 

                                                            Christa

All my life I had to deal with sexism. From my teachers and professors, to tour guides and so on. All my life people would tell me that I’d never be able to reach the stars because I was simply a woman. Why does it matter if you are tall or short, pink or purple, male or female? Yes I’m delicate. Yes I’m gentle. But I’m not fragile. How would it look if NASA sent another crew of men up to space? Look around at your pictures of astronauts. There are maybe one or two female astronauts, but the rest are all men! Aren’t we in a new era in American history? Women can vote, women can work, and women can stand up for themselves! Why can’t more women go up into space?

  

                                                            Mr. Branchest

Well, Ms. McAuliffe, the woman who did go up in space, Sally Ride in 1983, worked in the space shuttle business for a long time. By the time she got up to space she had taken over 100 practice missions and aced all of them. You on the other hand have no experience whatsoever.

 

                                                            Christa

The other men out there don’t have any experience, either. What makes them better than me?

 

                                                            Mr. Branchest

Like I said, it all comes down to the stereotypical views of the world media. When they hear that NASA is sending up an inexperienced female teacher to the moon, it raises eyebrows that NASA isn’t very safe.

 

                                                            Christa

Mr. Branchest, when you send me to the moon I’ll be well prepared with your practice runs. And it looks like the media is more important to NASA than science.

 

                                                            Mr. Branchest

That’s not it at all. If something happens to you in space, people will criticize NASA and say that we send fragile people up to explore the unknown. To send a female teacher up to space – that’s just too risky for NASA’s image and yourself.

                                                            Christa

Anything could happen to anybody, male or female, in space and they’re still going to say NASA is the problem. Don’t you think it would be great for NASA to send a woman teacher into space? It will show the world that there are no boundaries between people, just like there are no boundaries between the earth and the universe.

 

                                                            Mr. Branchest

I see well into what you’re saying, Ms. McAuliffe. Stick around for a while, I would like to hear more from you. We, here at NASA, like someone who can keep to their points. And yes, I do think it would look good to send a female teacher into space. I mean after all, there are no boundaries in science except people standing in the way of other people’s explorations!

                                                            Christa

(Smiles)

You won’t regret this decision, Sir. Oh no you won’t!   

 

End of Play   

         

Rachel Nadboy
Age 13, Grade 8
MS 51 William Alexander
Silver Key

Leave a Reply