Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Student Group Tour magazine will continue to provide ideas for planning educational travel. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information. 

In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger carrying seven crew members exploded in the sky only 73 seconds into its flight. Live television as well as bystanders captured this horrific disaster as the world watched a highly anticipated mission end tragically.

Located in St. Louis, Missouri, Challenger Learning Center-St. Louis is part of a network of more than 40 Challenger Learning Centers located throughout the world, inspiring students to develop deep interests in science, math and technology.

“The center is part of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, an international not-for-profit education organization founded in April 1986 by the families of the astronauts tragically lost during the Challenger space shuttle mission,” said Tasmyn Scarl Front, executive director at Challenger Learning Center-St. Louis.

The center honors the crew that undertook immense responsibilities in the name of space exploration. Today, the attraction has served over 250,000 people since its inception in 2003.

Educational experiences at the center include workshops for not only students but educators too, as well as immersive simulation programs and post-visit classroom resources.

Credit: Challenger Learning Center-St. Louis

“For school groups, a visit to the Challenger Learning Center is unlike any other field trip,” Scarl Front said.

The center’s core experience is a space mission simulation, which contains an “orbiting” space station and Mission Control center modeled after NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Students will receive jobs similar to those of astronauts, engineers and scientists. While one half of the crew works on the spacecraft, the other works in Mission Control.

Play the role of rocket design companies in the Great Rocket Design Challenge. After taking a short tutorial, students will work cooperatively using math, writing and design engineering to construct and test paper rockets on a high-powered air launcher. “Our engaging and transformative experiences show students that they are capable of pursuing a STEM pathway while having fun,” Front Scarl said. “Our programs have an emphasis on the importance of using teamwork, communication, perseverance and critical thinking skills.”

Currently, the center is not offering in-person programs for the summer. For more information or to inquire after reopening updates, call 314-521-6205 or go to challengerstl.org.