Reach for the stars: Challenger Learning Center helps kids of all backgrounds dream of outer space


FERGUSON, Mo. – Space tourism is a hot topic these days and the next big space explorer could be learning the ropes right here in St. Louis.

On Tuesday morning, Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, female aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and 18-year-old student Oliver Daemen headed into space on the first human flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle.  

Bezos is the second billionaire to reach the edge of space behind Richard Branson, who rocketed there last week aboard a vessel made by his company, Virgin Galactic.

“There’s been so many really exciting things happening in space and human exploration. It’s really wonderful to see these kinds of things happening on a continuous basis.,” said Tasmyn Scarl Front, executive director of the Challenger Learning Center-St. Louis.

Since 1986, The Challenger Learning Center-St. Louis in partnership with the Ferguson-Florissant School District, the Saint Louis Science Center, and Education Plus has been dedicated to inspiring future generations through space mission simulations.

Their message is that you don’t have to be a billionaire like Bezos and Branson to reach your dreams.

“It doesn’t matter what your background is. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or the kind of family you grew up in. You set your sights on something big and go for it and never give up,” Front said.

In advance of Tuesday’s flight, Challenger Center, which oversees forty learning centers worldwide, was selected to receive a $1 million grant from Blue Origin’s Club for the Future.

The grant will boost the organization’s work to inspire even more students with engaging science, technology, engineering, and math programs.

“For us to be able to reach more students with more programming. With our mission to reach under-resourced communities and kids to give everybody that opportunity to experience what it would be like to go on a mission to the Moon or to Mars or to Outer Space,” Front said.

The Challenger Learning Center is excited to see the current space race give students a look at how past NASA endeavors carry forward into the future.

“The fact that we have something that is current and relevant that we can talk…that the kids have seen on TV, the news. So, they know that it’s something that is going on today and not just something historic,” said Front.

The Challenger Learning Center is still offering plenty of programs virtually and they encourage families and scout groups to sign up. They hope to return to in-person learning as soon as possible.

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