Blogs  |  1.27.2022

Remembering the Challenger Crew 36 Years Later

Challenger Center

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36 years ago on January 28, 1986, we tragically lost the Challenger STS-51L crew. After the tragedy, the Challenger families came together to create Challenger Center as a living tribute to the crew. For more than three and a half decades since, Challenger Center has continued its work to carry on the crew’s educational mission and inspire students around the world to reach for the stars.

“With every student that feels inspired, empowered, and intrigued after experiencing a Challenger Center program, the memories of our beloved Challenger crew live on,” said Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, founding chair, Challenger Center, and widow of Challenger Commander Dick Scobee. “Out of tragedy, we were able to turn the crew’s passion for STEM into an organization that has had and will continue to have a profound impact on our future. I know Dick, Mike, Judy, Ellison, Ron, Greg, and Christa would be incredibly proud, not only of the work we’ve done through Challenger Center these past 36 years, but also of all of the great work and contributions Challenger Center alumni are making to better our world.”

The seven crew members – Commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka and Ronald E. McNair and Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis and Teacher-in-Space Payload Specialist Christa McAuliffe – 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 math, science, and space exploration.

“In the 36 years since the Challenger tragedy, the crew’s dedication to an educational mission, has served as a guiding light and inspiration to all of us at Challenger Center,” said Challenger Center President and CEO Lance Bush. “As we continue to navigate changing circumstances in education, we remain dedicated to helping young people thrive through hands-on STEM programming for the next 36 years and beyond. We are extremely grateful to every person, partner, and donor that has supported Challenger Center and the crew’s educational mission over the years.”

Challenger Center and its network of more than 40 Challenger Learning Centers provide hands-on STEM experiences to students around the world. In addition to programs delivered in Centers, Challenger Center has developed Classroom Adventures to be delivered by teachers in classrooms and Virtual Missions delivered by Flight Directors to students in virtual, hybrid, or socially-distanced settings. These programs give the organization the opportunity to ignite the potential in more students than ever before.

Additionally, Challenger Center is expanding its network with the opening of two new Challenger Learning Centers this Spring. The Challenger Learning Center at Montgomery County Community College, located in Pottstown, PA, will be the first Center in Pennsylvania and serve students in the Philadelphia area. The Challenger Learning Center at St. Clair County Community College, located in Port Huron, Michigan, will serve students in Michigan and Ontario communities.