Suburban students mark Challenger anniversary

January 28, 2011 2:52:19 PM PST
The 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster is being marked around the country, including here in the Chicago.

Twenty five years ago today at 10:39 a.m., the space shuttle Challenger broke up 73 seconds after liftoff leading to the deaths of its seven crew members.

Hundreds gathered at the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday morning where Challenger began its ill-fated flight. Family and friends of the fallen crew, NASA officials and other astronauts placed wreaths and flowers at a memorial for the Challenger.

One of the astronauts on board was teacher Christa McAuliffe. Several Challenger Learning Centers for Science and Technology were established after the tragedy to get students interested in education.

ABC 7's Jessica D'Onofrio visited one of those centers in Woodstock where students are learning about the tragedy.

"The most important thing is that, although we want to honor the astronauts and the sacrifice they paid, we really want to honor the triumph that came out of that tragedy which is the Challenger Learning Center network," said Steve Otten, executive director, Challenger Learning Center.

"I think it's kinda neat that we are coming here on our field trip on the anniversary," said Hazel Ringpis, student.

Children gathered in Woodstock at the Challenger Learning Center Friday morning to remember the events that day. They held candles and observed a moment of silence for the astronauts who were lost. Outside the learning center, members from the local VFW post did a 21 gun salute which was followed by Taps.

The center invited U.S. Congressman Joe Walsh to encourage him to help keep the center open for years to come.

"I can be a cheerleader at the federal level. You know as well as I do that dollars are very tight, but there are certainly local pockets of funding that can be tapped," said Rep. Walsh, (R).

The Challenger Learning Center is a non-profit organization that opened in 2001. It's part of a national organization of 48 Challenger centers formed by the family members of the Challenger astronauts with a desire to continue the mission of the crew.

The goal of the center is to inspire young people to pursue careers in math, science and technology. The center services children from schools in nine counties in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. They get to fly simulated space missions that promote communication and teamwork.

Later on in the day, children will be releasing silver balloons into the sky to remember the shuttle astronauts.