Students Explore Space 25 Years After Challenger Disaster

Brownsburg Center Gives Students Up-Close Experience

Twenty-five years after the Challenger disaster shocked the nation, schoolchildren unaware of the painful history are learning about space thanks to the families of those who lost their lives.

There are 48 Challenger Learning Centers across the globe, including three in Indiana, established by the families of those killed when the space shuttle exploded nine miles above the Atlantic Ocean, killing all seven people on board, including teacher Christa McAuliffe.

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"The families of the Challenger crew are the ones who started the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, and they really wanted to continue the education mission that Christa McAuliffe and her teammates started," said Mary Patterson, the director of the Brownsburg Challenger Learning Center.

At the Brownsburg center Friday, children were eager to experience a simulated flight, mission control and life in a spacecraft, 6News' Julie Pursley reported.

"I've learned about how we can communicate to the other people on the ship," said Mac Williamson, who said he's considering being an astronaut.

Stacy Nolan, a teacher at Kingsway Christian School who brought students to the center Friday, said she vividly remembers watching the shuttle take off and the aftermath 25 years ago, and said she shared that with her class.

"I was a 6th grade student at the time and explained to them what that felt like," she said. "I tried to even, with some of them, to go through and say, 'Think about what that would be like for Christa McAuliffe's students.'"

Some students said learning about the disaster has given them an appreciation of McAuliffe and of the space program.

"I have learned that she was very brave to go up into space with not much experience," Landon Wall said. "It was wise of them to create these kinds of things because it gives children the knowledge so that will not happen if they become astronauts."

"I think it might have touched a lot of people, and I think that it's really cool that we can be able to do this on the anniversary," Brooklyn Sanders said.

About 9,000 students come through the Brownsburg facility every year. There is also a Challenger Learning Center in Decatur Township in Indianapolis and one in Hammond.

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