New Space and Tech

Challenger Center Commemorates 25 Years of Inspiring Students through Space Science Exploration

By Keith Cowing
April 8, 2013
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Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center), the nation’s premier provider of science education inspiration, is marking its 25th anniversary with the launch of its “Challenger Changed My Life” program to highlight its life-transforming benefits for students. The non-profit organization was founded on April 24, 1986 in tribute to the seven fallen astronauts of the Challenger Space Shuttle and their education mission. With the ongoing support of the astronauts’ families, NASA, leading scientists, business leaders, educators and the nation, Challenger Center continues its vital role in STEM (science technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Since its creation, its nationwide network of Challenger Learning Centers has served more than 4,000,000 students with simulated space missions and powerful STEM-focused learning experiences.
“There is no better way to honor those courageous explorers than to keep their dream for the future and passion for teaching and learning alive in generation upon generation of our nation’s children,” said June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger Space Shuttle commander Dick Scobee and founding chair of Challenger Center’s board of directors. “We’re very proud to have inspired and educated so many students in our first 25 years, yet we know we’ve just begun to fulfill our mission of motivating tomorrow’s explorers, scientists and innovators.” An Illustrious Legacy in STEM Education

Through school-day, afterschool, weekend and summer programs, the Challenger Learning Center experience excites students with space science learning activities, which creates positive educational experiences and inspires them to pursue aerospace and STEM-related careers. The organization’s unique coast-to-coast network of 48 Challenger Learning Centers takes children on highly-realistic simulations of NASA-like missions to the Moon, Mars, Comet Halley, and the asteroids. Students pilot and navigate their spacecraft and launch scientific probes and experiments, calling upon such essential 21st century skills as decision-making, teamwork, problem-solving, and communications to complete their missions successfully.

Challenger Center has been an educational leader, keeping children connected to science education and exploration, which was the centerpiece of the Challenger Space Shuttle’s tragic mission. “We mark this important milestone with renewed commitment to Challenger’s spirit of inspiration, discovery and teaching,” said Daniel Barstow, Challenger Center President. “The need to inspire students to push the frontiers of knowledge and achievement and continue America’s leadership in science, technology and space exploration has never been greater.”

To showcase its enduring impact on students’ lives, Challenger Center is launching its “Challenger Changed My Life” program ( The campaign will showcase former students whose lives and career choices were transformed by their Challenger Learning Center experience. It will first profile Meg Meehan, an aerospace systems engineer who flew her first Challenger Learning Center mission as a sixth-grader and went on to work on the final shuttle flight to the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.

“Had it not been for Challenger, I probably would not have pursued a career in space exploration and space science,” Meehan said. “Challenger changed my life and helped put me on my career path…. And, I’m hardly the only student who’s come face-to-face with their dreams and aspirations while flying a Challenger mission.”

Launching the Future

As Challenger Center observes its first 25 years and honors the courage and spirit of the Challenger astronauts, the organization is revitalizing its mission for the next-quarter century. “We’ve built a brilliant legacy in science education but Challenger is hardly resting on its laurels,” said Scott Parazynski, chairman of Challenger Center’s board of directors and a former NASA astronaut. “We’re anticipating new modes of space travel and exploration, emerging technologies, and new domains of knowledge, all of which will offer our educators exciting teaching and learning opportunities.”

About Challenger Center for Space Science Education

Using space exploration as a theme and simulations as a vehicle, Challenger Center for Space Science Education and its international network of 48 Challenger Learning Centers create positive educational experiences that raise students’ expectations of success, fosters a long-term interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and inspires students to pursue studies and careers in these areas. Challenger Center’s network of Challenger Learning Centers across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Korea reach more than 400,000 students each year through simulated space missions and educational programs, and engage over 40,000 educators through missions, teacher workshops and other programs. To learn more about Challenger Center for Space Science Education, visit

Challenger Center for Space Science Education was created to honor the seven astronauts of shuttle flight STS-51-L:

Commander Dick Scobee
Gregory Jarvis
Christa McAuliffe
Ronald McNair
Ellison Onizuka
Judith Resnik
Michael J. Smith.

Challenger Center for Space Science Education
Angie Tenne
300 N. Lee St., Suite 301
Alexandria, VA 22314

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.