On January 28, 1986, the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51-L “Teacher in Space”) mission—Dick Scobee, Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith—set out to broaden educational horizons and advance scientific knowledge. Their mission exemplified man’s noblest and most wondrous qualities—to explore, discover, and teach.

To the nation’s shock and sorrow, their Space Shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff.

In the aftermath of the Challenger accident, the crew’s families came together, firmly committed to the belief that they must carry on the spirit of their loved ones by continuing the Challenger crew’s educational mission. In April 1986, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education was formed.

The family members envisioned a place where children, teachers and citizens alike could touch the future by manipulating equipment, conducting experiments, solving problems, and working together—immersing themselves in space-like surroundings. The goal: to spark youth interest and joy in science and engineering, a spark that could change lives. The result: the creation of a Challenger Learning Center.

The first Learning Center opened in Houston in August 1988. Today, there are more than 45 Learning Centers in the U.S., Canada, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Collectively, these centers reach more than 400,000 middle-school aged students and 40,000 teachers each year. Since 1986, Challenger Center has impacted more than four million students. It maintains strong partnerships with NASA, other federal agencies, universities and the aerospace industry who help keep the curriculum current.