Category Archives: space science education

Expanded Planetarium Honors Shepard, McAuliffe


The new, 45,000-square-foot McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center opens today with new interactive science exhibits, an expanded gift shop, cafe, and theater space.

The new Discovery Center is a major transformation of the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium, built to honor the teacher who died on the Space Shuttle Challenger mission. The new center is also named for Derry, N.H., native Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

Touching the Future…

I was reminded of a story today from my time as a Challenger Learning Center Mission Commander.

Anessa was a recent immigrant from Russia who came to the Buehler Challenger & Science Center for a mission. Her teacher had assigned her to the Navigation station, probably one of the most difficult teams because of the reading required.

A few minutes into the mission, as the rest of the students enthusiastically began their work, Anessa sat alone at her console, a look of discouragement on her face. Her teacher told me that Anessa did not either speak or write English and that she couldn’t get her to do anything.

I went over to Anessa and said, “How would you like to try something different?” I led her over to the Isolation team, and to our robotic arms. She grinned, sat down, and went to work.

As some of the other students struggled with the instructions in their task cards, Anessa went to the controls of the robots like an astronaut with years of training. At the end of the mission, Anessa was glowing, and I was happy for her success.

Touching the future often happens one child at a time.