Who We Are2018-11-14T20:15:27+00:00

The Challenger Mission’s Legacy

About Us

Overview

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. Their efforts resulted in the creation of Challenger Center for Space Science Education.

Challenger Center and its global network of Challenger Learning Centers use space-themed simulated learning and role-playing strategies to help students bring their classroom studies to life and cultivate skills needed for future success, such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication and teamwork.

A not-for-profit 501(c)(3) education organization, Challenger Center reaches hundreds of thousands of students, and tens of thousands of teachers every year.

Mission

Engage students and teachers in dynamic, hands-on exploration and discovery opportunities that strengthen knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), inspire students to pursue careers in these fields, and provide an outlet to learn and apply important life skills.

Vision

Build a scientifically literate public and shape our future leaders to help improve quality of life across the globe – not just through pragmatic teaching, but also by the power of vision, inspiration, and innovation.

Challenger STS-51L Crew

The crew of the Challenger shuttle died tragically on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, when a booster engine failed, causing the shuttle to break apart just 73 seconds after launch.

Click on any member of the Challenger crew to find out more about them.

Challenger Crew

Ellison S. Onizuka – Mission Specialist

Ellison S. Onizuka, was the last of the three mission specialists aboard the Challenger STS-51L. He had been born in Kealakekua, Kona, Hawaii, on June 24, 1946, of Japanese-American parents.

Mr. Onizuka attended the University of Colorado, receiving B.S. and M.S. degrees in engineering in June and December 1969, respectively. While at the university he married Lorna Leido Yoshida of Hawaii, and the couple eventually had two children. He also participated in the Air Force R.O.T.C. program, leading to a commission in January 1970. Onizuka served on active duty with the Air Force until January 1978 when he was selected as a NASA astronaut. With the Air Force in the early 1970s he was an aerospace flight test engineer at the Sacramento Air Logistics Center. After July 1975 he was assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as squadron flight test officer and later as chief of the engineering support section.

When Onizuka was selected for the astronaut corps he entered into a one year training program and then became eligible for assignments as a mission specialist on future Space Shuttle flights. He worked on orbiter test and checkout teams and launch support crews at the Kennedy Space Center for the first two Shuttle missions and became the first Asian American to reach space and the first person of Japanese ancestry to reach space. Since he was an Air Force officer on detached duty with NASA, Onizuka was a logical choice to serve on the first dedicated Department of Defense classified mission. He was a mission specialist on STS-51C, taking place 24-27 Jan. 1985 on the Discovery orbiter. The Challenger flight was his second Shuttle mission.

Sharon Christa Corrigan McAuliffe – Teacher-in-Space Payload Specialist

Sharon Christa McAuliffe, was selected from among more than 11,000 applicants from the education profession for entrance into the astronaut ranks, to become the first teacher to fly in space. McAuliffe had been born on September 2, 1948, the oldest child of Edward and Grace Corrigan.

Her father was at that time completing his sophomore year at Boston College, but not long thereafter he took a job as an assistant comptroller in a Boston department store and the family moved to the Boston suburb of Framingham. As a youth she registered excitement over the Apollo moon landing program, and wrote years later on her astronaut application form that "I watched the Space Age being born and I would like to participate."

McAuliffe attended Framingham State College in her hometown, graduating in 1970. A few weeks later she married her longstanding boyfriend, Steven McAuliffe, and they moved to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area so Steven could attend Georgetown Law School. She took a job teaching in the secondary schools, specializing in American history and social studies. They stayed in the Washington area for the next eight years, she teaching and completing an M.A. from Bowie State University, in Maryland. They moved to Concord, New Hampshire, in 1978 when Steven accepted a job as an assistant to the state attorney general. Christa took a teaching post at Concord High School in 1982, and in 1984 learned about NASA's efforts to locate an educator to fly on the Shuttle. The intent was to find a gifted teacher who could communicate with students from space.

NASA selected McAuliffe for this position in the summer of 1984 and in the fall she took a year-long leave of absence from teaching, during which time NASA would pay her salary, and trained for an early 1986 Shuttle mission. She had an immediate rapport with the media, and the teacher in space program received tremendous popular attention as a result. It is in part because of the excitement over McAuliffe's presence on the Challenger that the accident had such a significant impact on the nation.

Gregory B. Jarvis – Payload Specialist

Gregory B. Jarvis, a payload specialist, worked for the Hughes Aircraft Corp.'s Space and Communications Group in Los Angeles, California, and had been made available for the Challenger flight by his company. He had been born on August 24, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan.

Jarvis had been educated at the State University of New York at Buffalo, receiving a B.S. in electrical engineering (1967); at Northeastern University, Boston, where he received an M.S. degree in the same field (1969); and at West Coast University, Los Angeles, where he completed coursework for an M.S. in management science (1973). Jarvis began work at Hughes in 1973 and served in a variety of technical positions until 1984 when he was accepted into the astronaut program under Hughes' sponsorship after competing against 600 other Hughes employees for the opportunity. Jarvis' duties on the Challenger flight had revolved around gathering new information on the design of liquid-fueled rockets.

Judith A. Resnik – Mission Specialist

Judith A. Resnik was one of three mission specialists on Challenger. Born on April 5, 1949 in Akron, Ohio, the daughter of Dr. Marvin Resnik, a respected Akron optometrist, and Sarah Resnik.

Ms. Resnik was educated in public schools before attending Carnegie Mellon University, where she received a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1970, and the University of Maryland, where she received a Ph.D. in the same field in 1977. Resnik worked in a variety of professional positions with the RCA Corporation in the early 1970s and as a staff fellow with the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, between 1974 and 1977.

Selected as a NASA astronaut in January 1978, the first cadre containing women, Resnik underwent the training program for Shuttle mission specialists during the next year. Thereafter, she filled a number of positions within NASA at the Johnson Space Center, working on aspects of the Shuttle program. Resnik became the second American woman in orbit during the maiden flight of Discovery, STS-41D, between August 30 and September 5, 1984. During this mission she helped to deploy three satellites into orbit; she was also involved in biomedical research during the mission. Afterward, she began intensive training for the STS-51L mission.

Michael J. Smith – Pilot

Michael J. Smith, was born on April 30, 1945 in Beaufort, North Carolina.

At the time of the Challenger accident a commander in the U.S. Navy, Mr. Smith had been educated at the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1967, and received an M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1968. From there he underwent aviator training at Kingsville, Texas, and received his wings in May 1969. After a tour as an instructor at the Navy's Advanced Jet Training Command between 1969 and 1971, Smith flew A- 6 "Intruders" from the USS Kitty Hawk in Southeast Asia. Later he worked as a test pilot for the Navy, flying 28 different types of aircraft and logging more than 4,300 hours of flying time. Smith was selected as a NASA astronaut in May 1980, and a year later, after completing further training, he received an assignment as a Space Shuttle pilot, the position he occupied aboard Challenger. This mission was his first space flight.

Francis R. “Dick” Scobee – Mission Commander

Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Francis W. Scobee. He was born on May 19, 1939, in Cle Elum, Washington, and graduated from the public high school in Auburn, Washington, in 1957.

Mr. Scobee then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, training as a reciprocating engine mechanic but longing to fly. He took night courses and in 1965 completed a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona. This made it possible for Scobee to receive an officer's commission and enter the Air Force pilot training program. He received his pilot's wings in 1966 and began a series of flying assignments with the Air Force, including a combat tour in Vietnam. Scobee also married June Kent of San Antonio, Texas, and they had two children, Kathie R. and Richard W., in the early 1960s. He attended the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in 1972 and thereafter was involved in several test programs. As an Air Force test pilot Scobee flew more than 45 types of aircraft, logging more than 6,500 hours of flight time.

In 1978 Scobee entered NASA's astronaut corps and was the pilot of STS-41C, the fifth orbital flight of the Challenger spacecraft, launching from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on April 6, 1984. During this seven-day mission the crew successfully retrieved and repaired the ailing Solar Maximum Satellite and returned it to orbit. This was an enormously important mission, because it demonstrated the capability that NASA had long said existed with the Space Shuttle to repair satellites in orbit.

Ronald E. McNair – Mission Specialist

Ronald E. McNair was the second of three mission specialists aboard Challenger. Born on October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina, McNair was the son of Carl C. McNair, Sr., and Pearl M. McNair.

Mr. McNair achieved early success in the segregated public schools he attended as both a student and an athlete. Valedictorian of his high school class, he attended North Carolina A&T State University where in 1971 he received a B.S. degree in physics. He went on to study physics at MIT, where he specialized in quantum electronics and laser technology, completing his Ph.D. in 1977. As a student he performed some of the earliest work on chemical HF/DF and high pressure CO lasers, publishing pathbreaking scientific papers on the subject.

McNair was also a physical fitness advocate and pursued athletic training from an early age. He was a leader in track and football at his high school. He also became a black belt in Karate, and while in graduate school began offering classes at St. Paul's AME Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He also participated in several Karate tournaments, taking more than 30 trophies in these competitions. While involved in these activities McNair met and married Cheryl B. Moore of Brooklyn, New York, and they later had two children. After completing his Ph.D. he began working as a physicist at the Optical Physics Department of Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California, and conducted research on electro-optic laser modulation for satellite-to-satellite space communications.

This research led McNair into close contact with the space program for the first time, and when the opportunity presented itself he applied for astronaut training. In January 1978 NASA selected him to enter the astronaut cadre, one of the first three African Americans selected. McNair became the second African American in space between February 3 and 11, 1984, by flying the Challenger Shuttle mission STS-41B. During this mission McNair operated the maneuverable arm built by Canada and used to move payloads in space. The 1986 mission was his second Shuttle flight.

Our History

Click on a date to find out more.

Aug.
1984
July
1985
Jan. 28,
1986
April
1986
Aug.
1988
Oct.
1999
Oct.
2014
May
2017

President Reagan announces that an elementary or secondary schoolteacher will be chosen as the first “citizen passenger” to fly into space aboard the space shuttle.

From a field of nearly 11,000 applicants, Christa McAuliffe, 36, is chosen to become the first teacher in space. Christa, a high school social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, will teach two, 15-minute lessons from the Space Shuttle. The lessons will be broadcast into classrooms across America. Barbara Morgan, 33, is picked as her backup.

8:23 a.m. ET – The Crew boards the Space Shuttle Challenger. Due to ice buildup on the launch pad, the launch is delayed. The temperature is 38 degrees at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

11:38 a.m. ET – The Space Shuttle Challenger lifts off. Seventy-three (73) seconds into flight, at an altitude of 48,000 feet, the Challenger Space Shuttle explodes.

5:00 p.m. ET – President Reagan speaks to a grieving nation. Among his remarks, he takes care to mention the children who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s launch.

In the aftermath of the Challenger accident, the families of the Challenger crew come together, firmly committed to the belief that they must carry on the spirit of their loved ones. They envision a place where children, teachers and citizens can touch the future: manipulate equipment, conduct experiments, solve problems, and work together, immersing themselves in space-like surroundings. Their goal is to spark youth interest and joy in science and engineering, believing that spark can change lives. With their collective efforts, they create Challenger Center for Space Science Education.

The first Challenger Learning Center opens in Houston, TX.

The first of three international Challenger Learning Centers opens at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, Canada.

The Challenger Learning Center at the Scobee Education Center in San Antonio, Texas becomes the first next generation Challenger Learning Center, featuring a new design and state-of-the-art technology.

Challenger Center is awarded the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for exemplary public service in promoting public understanding of science and engineering.

Team

Leadership & Staff

Board of Directors

Advisory Council

Challenger Families

Partners

Challenger Center acknowledges the support of the various partners who share in our mission and help make possible the work that we do.

Recognition

Since its founding, Challenger Center has been recognized for its ongoing work to inspire students with a lifelong love of STEM.

Financial Information

By supporting Challenger Center, you can ignite the potential in students and spark a passion for learning that will last a lifetime. We’re committed to operating with transparency and to sharing with our donors the meaningful impact of their contributions. View our 990 forms and Annual Reports below to learn more about our work.

Current Financials

In 2017, Challenger Center’s revenue was $4.1 million. Eighty-three percent of our revenue went directly to the development and delivery of our impactful STEM-education programs around the world. This includes the establishment of a new Challenger Learning Center in Lockport, New York. We rolled out our newest mission, Expedition Mars, to eight Challenger Learning Centers. The mission is now offered at 18 Challenger Learning Centers nationwide and has served nearly 19,000 students. We also successfully piloted Aquatic Investigators and Earth to Mars, our first two Classroom Adventures. We are now looking to develop more classroom-based programs and intend to scale these programs to reach millions of students each year

We are grateful to our government, corporate, and foundation partners, as well as all the individuals who contributed in 2017. These organizations and people support us in many ways, including monetary gifts and in-kind contributions of their expertise and resources. It is your support that enabled us to ignite the potential in 250,000+ students and will help us to ignite the potential in millions more in future years – thank you.

Annual Reports and Form 990s

Keep the Challenger Legacy Alive.