Bridgeport museum remembers Challenger disaster thirty years later

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — Today marks 30 years since one of the biggest disasters in space exploration. The space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff, killing all seven people on board.

Thirty years later the Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport is focusing on education. Kids and adults have the opportunity to be an astronaut for the day at the Challenger Learning Center, which is the only one in Connecticut. There are more than 40 of them around the world. Challenger crew members’ families created them to give kids the chance to continue their mission. Kids can be space chemists, doctors or navigators.

“This is something you don’t get to do every day because being an astronaut takes a lot of training,” said Alan Tran, an 8th grader at Discovery Interdistrict Magnet School. “Here you can be an everyday astronaut.”

Kids prepare for a mock trip into space in a shuttle or in back home in mission control. The museum hosted a special trip to the moon for kids today – exactly 30 years after the Challenger disaster. The simulated space sessions have taught kids more about what it takes to be an astronaut.

“I’ve learned that space isn’t so easy to survive in, even if you’re in a space ship,” said Discovery Interdistrict Magnet School 7th grader Christian Gutierrez.

Though these kids don’t remember that day 30 years ago, museum staff do. They were thinking of it this morning.

“We watched it unfold,” said Lynn Olins, Director of Education. “It was a day that was definitely burned in my memory.”

But staff are hoping to create something positive here – decades after the tragedy. They want kids to know there’s another world out there to explore – and to encourage them to reach for the stars.

“I think that was one of the things that the astronauts wanted most of all was that the mission continue,” said David Mestre, Manager of Space Science Education. “That was something that NASA committed themselves to.”

The museum won’t just be remembering the Challenger today. There will also be an event on Saturday night from 5 to 8 o’clock for people of all ages to remember what happened 30 years ago.

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