On January 28, 1986, one of the booster engines failed, causing the Space Shuttle Challenger to explode 73 seconds after the launch. In an effort to remember crew members Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith A. Resnik, Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Ronald E. McNair, Mike J. Smith, and Ellison S. Onizuka, their families decided to carry on their educational mission, resulting in the creation of Challenger Center for Space Science Education.
The Challenger Learning Center, located at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV, is one of several locations globally that simulates a mission control room and a space station. Students role-play jobs that NASA engineers have by conducting missions to help bring space science to life and practice important life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork. The Challenger Centers also aim to engage students in opportunities to promote and raise awareness about careers in STEM fields.
This year, the sixth grade teams participated in the Expedition Mars® Mission, where the students worked together to conduct research and search for evidence of life on Mars.