ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The morning of January 28, 1986 marked the last hours of the Challenger space shuttle before the tragic accident that took the lives of six astronauts and a school teacher Christa McAullife.
For Peter Robson — now an instructor at the Challenger Learning Center as part of Monroe 1 BOCES — that day remains clear in his memories.
“I can tell you details of who I sat next to what I was wearing — everything about that,” Robinson said. “Because every kid in America at the time that’s now my age, we had been looking forward to that day, and that adventure for some two-and-a-half years.”
The tragedy has had a lasting impact on the country, and for Robson, it serves as an inspiration behind his work every day.
“This has to be right every time, for every child. They get one opportunity, and we have that same one opportunity, so we work very hard to make this a meaningful experience for the kids that join us,” said Robson.
Earlier this month divers found a 20-foot piece of the shuttle off of the coast of Florida. The damage a reminder of the tragedy that occurred and for Steve Orcutt, the director of instructional programs and services for Monroe 1 BOCES, a reminder of why the center was started.
“Families of the people who lost their lives during that challenger mission wanted to come up with an educational program to remember their loved ones,” said Orcutt.
As a result, Challenger Learning Centers began a nationwide rollout to honor the memory of the lost astronauts and to make sure their loss wasn’t in vain by continuing their mission.
“It’s about exciting kids about math, science, technology, and engineering. It’s what we’re all about, you know. If we learn along the way of course that’s important, but it’s about that attitude towards science,” said Orcutt.
Since the center’s inception in 1991 thousands of students have passed through the doors of the center, and more are coming each day. Each one is learning, and fulfilling the dreams of a crew that was lost too soon in the pursuit of pushing humanity further into the final frontier.