Alaska Astronaut tours Challenger Center

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Alaska has been called the "last frontier" of planet earth, so it seems fitting for Alaska to be a place to dream of the new frontier space. So it is, now that Phase II of the Alaska Challenger Learning Center is complete. In a state as large as Alaska, it was obvious that the Challenger Center in Kenai would need facilities where kids and teachers could stay overnight if it were to serve students from as far away as Juneau, Fairbanks or Nome.

What became apparent at last weeks open house was that Phase II of the Center is so much more than a bunkhouse. Every nut, bolt and heating duct has been designed to simulate a starship or orbiting space station. The new addition to the Center also features a distant learning center, two new classrooms and a full service kitchen.

A man who is soon to visit the International Space Station orbiting planet earth, Astronaut Bill Oefelein, was on hand for the open house to greet staff, volunteers and community members who came by for a personal tour of the new facilities. Oefelein was originally scheduled for a shuttle launch this month to the International Space Station, but because of the Columbia tragedy last year his mission has been delayed.


Gina Luckey with the Challenger Center team of Jamie Meyers, Zada Friedersdorff, Astronaut Bill Oefelein and Linda Hibbard at last week's open house for Phase II of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.

"We're figuring out what went wrong there and are working on fixing any problems. As of now, we are scheduled for July of next year for a mission to the International Space Station to swap out the crew and do some new construction building a truss segment of the space station where the solar rays are to be housed. It's going to be a challenging and an exciting mission and I'm really looking forward to it," said Oefelein.

According to Alaska's astronaut, NASA is very much interested in education and understands the importance of inspiring the next generation to explore space.

"It's part of NASA's mission and is one of their six strategic enterprises to educate and inspire our youth to study science and become interested in space exploration. We certainly need to keep that strength here in the U.S.," added Lt. Commander Bill Oefelein.

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