Press Releases  |  2.7.2024

Relaunch of Challenger Learning Center at Christa McAuliffe Center, Framingham State University

Challenger Center

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Washington and Framingham, Mass. (February 7, 2024) – On Friday, January 26, the Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning at Framingham State University (FSU) kicked off a weekend-long grand reopening celebration, including the launch of its fully renovated Challenger Learning Center, planetarium, and other multifunctional spaces.

In collaboration with Challenger Center, the original Challenger Learning Center simulator was removed, and a newly designed experience was installed at the McAuliffe Center. The new Challenger Learning Center includes the same core spaces – Briefing Room, Mission Control, and Spacecraft – but features new fixtures, hardware, software, audio/visual equipment, graphics, and student interactives to meet the needs and expectations of today’s learners. It is a fully immersive learning environment where thousands of students of all ages engage in simulated space missions each year.

McAuliffe Center Director Irene Porro shared, “The renovation to a fully multifunctional space allows us to leverage the unique perspective of seeing planet Earth from space, bringing attention to the environmental changes our planet has suffered and to inspire the creative thinking we need to deal with the climate crisis. Mission Control in the Challenger Learning Center is a modern computer lab that in addition to Center Missions, could be used to host climate preparedness simulations or models of the stock market. The only limit is our creativity and imagination.”

The McAuliffe Center was established in 1994 to honor FSU’s beloved alumna Christa Corrigan McAuliffe ‘70, who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger accident. The grand reopening weekend culminated with a special ceremony on Sunday, January 28, which also marked the 38th anniversary of the tragedy.

Lance Bush, Challenger Center President and CEO, said, “All space missions are important, but the Challenger mission was special: Christa was to be the first Teacher In Space, and this mission would inspire students and teachers across the globe. With the relaunch of the McAuliffe Center, Framingham State University has set the stage for another 30 years of providing the students of Massachusetts with more robust science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming, inspiring them to pursue STEM careers, and building the STEM workforce of tomorrow.”

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts provided $5 million to redesign and modernize the aging facility. The University also received federal funding and grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Skills Grant program to pay for the project, which cost nearly $8 million in total.

Mission Control is a modern computer lab that in addition to Center Missions, could be used to host programming such as climate preparedness simulations or models of the stock market.
The new Challenger Learning Center features new fixtures, hardware, software, audio/visual equipment, graphics, and student interactives to meet the needs and expectations of today’s learners.
The updated Challenger Learning Center is a fully immersive learning environment where thousands of students of all ages engage in simulated space missions each year.
The grand reopening weekend culminated with a special ceremony on Sunday, January 28, which also marked the 38th anniversary of the Challenger Shuttle tragedy.