Press Release

Outpouring of Support for Challenger Learning Centers

By SpaceRef Editor
February 4, 2011
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Outpouring of Support for Challenger Learning Centers

25 years after tragedy, many join to celebrate triumph

On the 25th anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle accident, there was an outpouring of support for Challenger Learning Centers as they carry on the educational mission of the Challenger crew.

June Scobee Rodgers, wife of Challenger Commander Dick Scobee, spoke at the Astronaut Memorial, Kennedy Space Center, to “honor our loved ones 25 years after their loss, on their silver anniversary. At Challenger Learning Centers, we honor the spirit of their mission every day that students go on missions to Earth’s orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the Challenger Learning Center in Richmond, VA, noted “Today’s students have the opportunity to build and take part in tomorrow’s big adventures and keep our country strong and competitive through science, technology,engineering and mathematics.”

Leland Melvin, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education, in a letter to Challenger Center, said, “You have provided a truly compelling way to motivate tomorrow’s leaders by showcasing the courage, vision, and integrity of the Challenger crew. Their dream lives on in each child.” (see attached letter)

Scott Parazynski, Chair of the Board of Challenger Center, noted that “Challenger Learning Centers serve as an essential bridge from the era of the space shuttle to the emerging new ways that NASA and private industry will explore space.”

Print and television media gave widespread coverage of the memorial service and the successful work of Challenger Learning Centers. CBS Evening News had a major report, commenting that “Millions of people remember watching the shuttle explode live on television. But the crew’s families wanted their memories to live on in a different way, so they created this, a place where kids can explore space and be inspired.”

And worldwide, ordinary citizens shared their personal stories of the tragedy . . .and the triumph as they found inspiration in carrying out Challenger’s educational and scientific missions. Challenger was in the top three worldwide of Twitter messages, as people reflected on this memorial day, and on their hopes for space exploration and education.

Text of letter from Leland Melvin, NASA Associate Administrator for Education

Mr. Daniel Barstow
Challenger Center for Space Science Education
300 No. Lee St., Suite 301 Alexandria, VA 22314

Dear Mr. Barstow:

As this Nation continues to push the envelope of innovation and secure the future for us all, we also honor those who have given their lives in the pursuit of scientific and technological progress. Our debt to them is tremendous, and we continue to benefit from their example, their spirit, their lessons, and their breakthroughs. As President Obama remarked yesterday as part of the Day of Remembrance for the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia crews, we must reflect “on the mighty sacrifices made to push those frontiers.”

In 1986,I was an undergraduate at the University of Richmond when I witnessed the Challenger tragedy unfolding as I walked through the student center. I recall feeling an intense urge to somehow help NASA and the families of the crew. And three years later, I began my career with the Agency which ultimately led to my joining the astronaut corps.

As an astronaut, I have a deep connection to the honor and legacy that the Challenger Center for Space Education represents. A theme is evident in both the Challenger Center’s mission and the President’s Day of Remembrance remarks: triumph from tragedy. These words exemplify the resilience, purpose, and optimism that led to the creation of the Challenger Centers. The Challenger Centers and NASA also have similar values in terms of education, and these goals align with my own personal commitment. As NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education, lead national efforts to involve students with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as engage Americans with NASA’s mission. You have provided a truly compelling way to motivate tomorrow’s leaders by showcasing the courage, vision, and integrity of the Challenger crew. Their dream lives on in each child who is touched by the wonder of discovery.

NASA’s Administrator Charlie Bolden also said yesterday, “These brave men and women will always be a part of us.” This fact is in no small part strengthened by the efforts of the Challenger Center. I applaud the Center’s unyielding dedication to this noble effort, and congratulate you on 25 years of inspiring the next generation of explorers- here’s to 25 more.

Leland D. Melvin
Associate Administrator for Education

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

For immediate release

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

SpaceRef staff editor.