In January 1986, the world watched in horror as the space shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds after liftoff. No ordinary shuttle launch, this flight’s seven astronauts included America’s first Teacher-In-Space, Christa McAuliffe – and the hopes and dreams of millions of school children.
A few months after the accident, the families of the seven Challenger astronauts traveled to Arizona, where they met with educators from around the nation to decide how to memorialize their loved ones. As a result of that meeting, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, an international not-for-profit organization, was founded with the goal of continuing the crew’s educational mission – to learn, to explore, and to inspire.
Using the concept of simulation as an instructional tool, Challenger Center programs create an exciting, cooperative learning environment that fosters interest in science, math, and technology. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of dedicated individuals, Challenger Center continues this important mission today.
The nation’s first Challenger Learning Center opened in August of 1988 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Currently there are over 40 Challenger Learning Centers in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
On June 15, 2001, the Challenger Learning Center of Maine became site number fifty-one! As a part of the Challenger network, Maine’s Center is part of a successful tradition of hands-on discovery.