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Challenger Learning Center at Heartland Community College
1500 W. Raab Road
Normal, IL 61761
P: (309)268.8700
F: (309)268.7984




Build a scientifically literate public and shape our future leaders to help improve quality of life across the globe - not just through pragmatic teaching, but by the power of vision, inspiration, and innovation.


The mission of the Challenger Learning Center is to engage students, teachers, and citizens in dynamic, hands-on exploration and discovery opportunities that strengthen knowledge in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), inspire individuals to pursue careers and interests in these fields, and provide an outlet to learn and apply important life skills.


Our primary goals include:


On January 28, 1986, the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger/STS-51L “Teacher in Space” mission set out to broaden educational horizons and advance scientific knowledge. Their mission exemplified man’s noblest and most wondrous qualities – to explore, discover, and teach. To the nation’s shock and sorrow, their Space Shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff.

In the aftermath of the Challenger accident, the crew’s families came together, firmly committed to the belief that they must carry on the spirit of their loved ones by continuing the Challenger crew’s educational mission. In April 1986, they created Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center). They envisioned a place where children, teachers and citizens alike could touch the future: manipulate equipment, conduct experiments, solve problems, and work together-immersing themselves in space-like surroundings. The goal: to spark youth interest and joy in science and engineering; a spark that could change their lives. The result: the creation of a Challenger Learning Center.

The first Challenger Learning Center opened in Houston in August 1988. Today, there are more than 40 Learning Centers in the U.S., Canada, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Collectively, these centers reach more than 400,000 middle-school aged students and 40,000 teachers each year. Since 1986, Challenger Center has impacted more than 4 million students. It maintains strong partnerships with NASA, other federal agencies, universities and the aerospace industry who help keep curriculum current.


Dedicated on December 17, 2003, the Challenger Learning Center became the second Challenger Learning Center located in Illinois. Originally part of the Prairie Aviation Museum, the Challenger Learning Center was located in the former airport terminal in Bloomington, Illinois. As part of the museum, the Challenger Learning Center provided K-8 missions, summer camps, corporate programs, scouts and other public events.

December 2009, the Challenger Learning Center moved to Heartland Community College. Located in the Astroth Community Education Center, the Challenger Learning Center continues to provide these programs and has expanded its program offerings to include, distance learning missions, new summer camps, Spring Break camps and much more. In February 2014, the Challenger Learning Center celebrated 10 years of inspiring, exploring and learning in Central Illinois with a poster contest and public event. Since the 2003 dedication, the Challenger Learning Center has impacted more than 60,000 students and adults.

Upcoming Events

Practical Strategies for NGSS Workshop
Parent & Child Space Day

Christa McAuliffe*