We were buzzing after our trip to Bang Printing and, despite the bouncing of the bus, many of us took the opportunity to get our books signed by the other writers and artist contributors to the anthology (like Pokemon – one simply must catch them all!).
The Challenger Learning Center at the Columbia Memorial Space Center is one of many Challenger Centers established by family members of the seven astronauts that passed away when the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated shortly after take-off in 1986. The role of the centers is to educate children about the wonders of space discovery so that they might also be inspired to dream big and perhaps take up this incredible field of science and adventure themselves.
The center is an amazing place. Its ambition to inspire thinkers and dreamers to imagine and invent new possibilities for our future goes hand-in-hand with the reason many of us writers write some of the science fiction we do.
Our guide for the day:
Inside the center, we were greeted by the wonderful June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Commander Dick Scobee and one of the founding members of the Challenger Centers. She has been a supporter of Writers and Illustrators of the Future for many years and even came to our awards ceremony. I was most honored to sign my story in her book.
The center is full of amazing displays and interactive learning. Our group had a ball.
I did not excel at paper plane design:
Just like movie stars, astronauts have also made their mark in cement blocks.
The center has a replica NASA mission-control room where groups of children can guide those in a neighbouring ‘space shuttle’ room to carry out missions on such remote places as the moon and Mars.
In my happy place …
We also got to visit the ‘space shuttle’ room, where interactive modules had been set-up to give us a taste of some of the duties one might need to perform as working astronauts. We even had to go through an airlock to reach it!
We also got to program Lego robots to travel along set paths on a board and collect items. This was loads of fun and I wish we’d had more time as I wanted to perfect it!
I found the collage at the entrance to the center in Downey very moving. Made up of hundreds of photos of the seven Challenger astronauts who died in their prime, both life and career-wise, it didn’t just represent the tragedy of losing such clever, talented, driven scientists and family members, but the joy and inspiration of seeing members of the human race striving to live out their dreams and passions.