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July 31, 2007

BLAST OFF: Writer supports teacher in space program

MIDDLEPORT — More than 20 years after the Challenger disaster, the countdown is on for a teacher to go into space. Barbara Morgan, 55, who originally trained as the backup for Christa McAuliffe in 1986, is ready to blast off Aug. 7 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The shuttle is long overdue and Barry E. DiGregorio, a science writer and musician who lives in Middleport, may have a something to do with the scheduled launch.

DiGregorio, a Niagara Falls native and Niagara County Community College graduate, has been lobbying to get a teacher in space for 20 years. A space candidate himself, DiGregorio has had his guitar music played in orbit and has letters of acknowledgment from NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin and Vice President Al Gore.

He has been corresponding with Morgan for years. In 2004, she wrote this note:

“Hi Barry,

I’m on overload, thanks for the countdown issue and article. I like it. I’ve received lots of positive comments about the Final Frontier piece. Thanks again for all your kindness and support. You have helped more than you may imagine, but I hope you keep imagining.

Yours, Barb”

DiGregorio, who writes more that 15 features for science magazines a year and works as a research associate for Cardiff University in Wales, thinks he did help NASA decide to go with a teacher again.

“They’re doing it quietly. They don’t want people to realize that it’s been 22 years to have a decision. It will be interesting to see the launch and what kind of coverage they give it,” he said Monday.

“The only thing you hear about is the drunk astronauts and the woman who was involved in a love triangle. You don’t hear about the positive things, a teacher finally getting to go in space and accomplish this mission.”

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