Good news, aspiring astronauts: You no longer need years of training to participate in a mission to space. Students can experience what it is like to be in a NASA Mission Control Center by visiting one of 43 Challenger Learning Centers around the world.

The centers, which serve 26 states and four countries, offer a way to stimulate students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. They are run by a partnership that includes NASA and the Education Department.

Lance Bush, president and chief executive of Challenger Center, says the organization has programs for all ages but focuses particularly on engaging students in middle school, which is the stage at which research shows many students turn their backs on STEM.

“Too many students are losing interest in these crucial STEM subjects at a really early age,” Mr. Bush said. “To succeed in this rapidly changing world, students need exposure to these fields.”

The big adventure comes with a big price tag, however. Schools must pay an average of $500 for each class that attends. And communities wishing to open a center need to find $2 million for technology start-up costs, although the national Challenger Center helps identify funders and provides educational support once centers open. —Jackie Mader

Source: The New York Times