The Challenger Learning Center was established as a living memorial to the heroes of the Challenger 51-L crew. A stand-alone facility, the Challenger Learning Center of Richland County School District One was the 26th of its kind in the Challenger Center Network. It opened in February 1996.
Challenger 51-L Crew
- Francis “Dick” R. Scobee, Commander
- Michael J. Smith, Pilot
- Judith A. Resnick, Mission Specialist
- Ellison S. Onizuka, Mission Specialist
- Ronald E. McNair, Mission Specialist
- Gregory B. Jarvis, Payload Specialist
- Sharon “Christa” C. McAullife, Payload Specialist
Excerpt from Silver Linings: Triumph of Challenger 7 by June Scobee Rogers:
Letter to America from the families of the Challenger crew
January 28, 1987
“One year ago, we shared a terrible loss with you. The Challenger crew were our husbands, wife, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, and son–the fundamental irreplaceable people in the fabric of our lives. At the same time, their mission, their quest, their essence were an intrinsic part of national life, too, part of the great extended family known simply as Americans. They were our pioneers. Together we mourned them and the shortness of their lives. But, in their short time, they contributed and left memories.
They were not people who cherished the soft and easy life, but people who worked hard to extend the reach of the human race no matter what sacrifice. They risked their lives, not for the sake of aimless adventure, but for the nation that gave them opportunity, and for the space frontier, which was an extension of its spirit. They were scientists, engineers, and teachers, guiding us to space. Challenger’s mission to give ordinary Americans access to space, to push scientific discovery forward was a culmination of their work, a fulfillment of their hopes, and an expression of their essential being.
Since their loss, we have been troubled by the incompleteness of their mission. Lessons were left untaught; scientific and engineering problems were left unsolved. Perhaps saddest of all is the idea that America’s children must once again put their dreams and their excitement about the future on hold. That is too great a loss, one we cannot accept.
We wish to carry on Challenger’s mission by creating a network of space learning centers all over the United States called, cumulatively, the Challenger Center. We envision places where children, teachers, and citizens alike can touch the future. We see them manipulating equipment, conducting scientific experiments, solving problems, working together immersing themselves in space-like surroundings and growing accustomed to space technology. As a team, they can practice the precise gestures and the rigorous procedures that will be required of them on the space frontier. They can embrace the vision and grasp the potential of space, too.
Though it will take time and money to build, the Challenger Center is our idea of a fitting tribute, a celebration of our loved ones’ lives, a triumph over their loss. We hope that by making space-like experiences accessible to all people, especially children, we can prepare them for the day when they will take their own place among the stars.
If they were alive and could speak to all Americans, we believe the Challenger crew would say this: Do not fear risk. All exploration, all growth is calculated risk. Without frontiers, civilizations stagnate. Without challenges, people cannot reach their highest selves.
Only if we accept our problems as challenges can today’s dream become tomorrow’s reality. Only if we were willing to walk over the edge can we become winners.”