Press Releases  |  1.28.2014

Challenger Center Remembers Heroic Crew on 28th Anniversary of Space Shuttle Tragedy

Challenger Center

Organization Created to Keep Educational Mission Alive Continues to Impact Students Around the Globe

WASHINGTON (January 28, 2014) – Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center) and its network of more than 40 Challenger Learning Centers around the globe will commemorate the anniversary of the Challenger tragedy as the organization continues its work to inspire, engage, and educate students around the world. The nonprofit organization was formed as a living tribute to the seven crew members lost on January 28, 1986.

“Today and every day, we remember our loved ones for their heroic efforts to not only inspire students, but to make a difference in all of our lives,” said Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, founding chair, Challenger Center, and widow of Challenger Commander Dick Scobee. “As I look back over the years, I’m filled with pride and gratitude for the support we received from people around the world. But it’s looking forward that excites me the most. The momentum continues to grow, and I’m so very eager to see what the future has in store for Challenger Center.”

The seven crew members of shuttle flight STS-51-L – Commander Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe (selected by NASA to be the first teacher in space), Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith – were part of the first Teacher in Space Project. The NASA program, announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, was designed to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in mathematics, science and space exploration.

Challenger Center staff will place a wreath at the memorial located in Arlington National Cemetery. In addition, several Challenger Learning Centers have plans to commemorate the anniversary on Tuesday:

  • Challenger Learning Center of Maine (Bangor, ME) will have 28 seconds of silence at 11:39 a.m. Joining the board and staff members will be local students and teachers.
  • Challenger Learning Center of Colorado (Colorado Springs, CO) will broadcast a campus-wide interview about the Challenger mission and the ways in which Challenger Center carries on those goals to the local namesake school, Challenger Middle School.
  • Christa McAuliffe Challenger Learning Center (Framingham, MA) will welcome Mass. State Representative Tom Sannicandro and Mass. State Secretary of Education Matthew Malone to the Center to commemorate the day.
  • Challenger Center Hawaii, Barbers Point Elementary School ( Kapolei, HI) will welcome Claude Onizuka, brother of Ellison Onizuka and Astronaut Rex Walheim to the Center. Walheim will speak to 60 sixth graders before the students participate in their mission.
  • Challenger Learning Center at Paducah (Paducah, KY) will provide each student with a Challenger Learning Center button to wear in honor of the crew. The crew will be highlighted in a newsletter distributed to each student visiting the Center.
  • Challenger Learning Center of Northern Nevada (Reno, NV) will open its doors to local leaders and community members. This will be the first opportunity for leaders, partners and potential donors to see the Center as construction continues to progress. The Center is scheduled to open later this year.
  • Scobee Planetarium and Challenger Learning Center (San Antonio, TX) will host a time of remembrance with Dr. June Scobee Rodgers. Scobee Rodgers will speak about her life-long mission to foster a new generation of star challengers. The Center is scheduled to open later this year.
  • Challenger Learning Center St. Louis (St. Louis, MO) students will create a commemorative mural that will be displayed throughout the week.
  • Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee (Tallahassee, FL) will launch rockets with third grade students at a local elementary school.
  • Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University (Wheeling, WV) will recognize the crew during a noon mass on campus.
  • Challenger Learning Center for Science & Technology (Woodstock, IL) students will release seven helium balloons with each astronaut’s name.  The Center will also hold an additional ceremony on  January 31 in conjunction with NASA’s Day of Remembrance.

Scobee Rodgers and Dr. Charles Resnik (brother of Judith Resnik) will be joined by their families on January 31 for NASA’s Day of Remembrance at the memorial in Arlington.

Challenger Center is embarking on a renewed effort to reach even more students and help equip them for future success. The organization is launching revolutionary software and missions that will further improve its education offerings. In addition, four new Challenger Learning Centers will open their doors in 2014. These locations include: Lockport, NY; Reno, NV; Schenectady, NY; and San Antonio, TX. The Scobee Planetarium and Challenger Learning Center in San Antonio (named in honor of Challenger Commander Dick Scobee and Founding Chair June Scobee Rodgers) will be home to the first newly designed Center.

“We are so proud of the accomplishments that this organization has celebrated over the last 28 years and are excited for what is on the horizon as Challenger Center continues to grow,” said Dr. Lance Bush, president and CEO, Challenger Center. “The staff and Challenger Learning Center teams work tirelessly to not only ensure we keep the crew’s education mission alive, but to truly honor the legacy of these national heroes. It’s a privilege to be a part of this mission.”

In addition to new technologies and a growing network, Challenger Center continues to find ways to stay at the forefront of educational innovation. Most recently, the organization was selected as one of 25 grantees by the U.S. Department of Education for the Investing in Innovation (i3) program. The four-year, multi-million dollar grant will enable Challenger Center to leverage its state-of-the-art technology to bring simulation learning opportunities into classrooms throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The grant will include teacher training, real time assessment of students, and third party evaluation of used methodologies. This initial development is the first stage of a multi-phased grant. Challenger Center hopes to ultimately offer the technology nationwide.