Press Releases  |  8.7.2018

Challenger Center Completes Christa McAuliffe’s Planned Lessons In Collaboration With International Space Station Astronauts

WASHINGTON DC – August 7, 2018 – Challenger Center, a leading science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education organization, today released the first of several lessons teacher Christa McAuliffe had planned to complete during the Challenger STS 51L Teacher in Space mission. In partnership with NASA and STEM on Station, Challenger Center worked with International Space Station astronauts Ricky Arnold and Joe Acaba to film the lessons and develop corresponding classroom activities. The first lesson, chromatography, is now available at

“More than 32 years ago, Christa and the Challenger crew set out on a mission to inspire students,” said Lance Bush, Challenger Center’s President and CEO. “We have continued that mission by creating and delivering hands-on STEM education programs to millions of students around the world. It is our privilege to add to these efforts and collaborate with NASA to carry out Christa’s plans and complete her lessons on the International Space Station.”

Aboard the Challenger shuttle, McAuliffe planned to conduct lessons as part of an educational packet that would be distributed after the mission. Arnold filmed several of the lessons just as McAuliffe had planned, while others were reimagined. In addition to chromatography, STEM topics covered in the videos filmed by Arnold using materials aboard the Space Station include effervescence, liquids in microgravity, and Newton’s law.

The videos come with corresponding classroom lessons for teachers to further engage their students. After watching the videos, the lessons challenge students to recreate the experiment and observe the differences between what they saw happen on the International Space Station and what happens in their classroom, including if ink separates differently on paper with microgravity and if antacid tablets produce more bubbles in space. Each lesson is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards.

“When educator astronauts, Ricky and Joe, requested to conduct Christa McAuliffe’s lesson plan, I was moved by how this honors not just her memory, but all educators world-wide,” said Mike Kincaid, NASA’s associate administrator of the Office of STEM Engagement. “Working with Challenger Center to bring those lessons directly to students and teachers has been a rewarding effort that we hope will spark the next generation into STEM careers.”

McAuliffe was a high school teacher from Concord, New Hampshire who made history when she was selected as the first teacher to go into space. The Challenger shuttle crew tragically died on the morning of January 28, 1986 when the shuttle broke apart 73 seconds after launch.

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About Challenger Center
As a leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, Challenger Center provides more than 260,000 students annually with experiential education programs that engage students in hands-on learning opportunities. These programs, delivered in Challenger Learning Centers and classrooms, strengthen knowledge in STEM subjects and inspire students to pursue careers in these important fields. Challenger Center was created by the Challenger families to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51-L.

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