News Archive

25th Anniversary of the Challenger Disaster

Many remember where they were when they heard the news of the Challenger space shuttle disaster on January 28, 1986.

The Challenger Learning Center at Paducah (CLC) hosted an essay contest involving fifth through seventh grade students from area elementary and middle schools to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Challenger accident.

Each participating student had to write a persuasive essay about whether the American space program should or should not have continued after the Challenger STS 51L accident. The students had to use an interview with someone who remembers the Challenger accident as one of their supporting resources.

Braxton Nelson, a fifth grader at Reidland Elementary, placed first in the competition. Ben Wilson, a Hickman County seventh grader, received second place. Kinsey Hamby, a fifth grader at South Marshall Elementary and Paducah Middle School sixth grader Maddie Ybarzabal tied for third.

On January 28, Nelson and 30 students from his class will spend the day with Colonel Terry Wilcutt, Kentuckys only astronaut. The students will get to fly a mission in the CLC simulator with Wilcutt and then get to hear him speak about his space experiences and honor those lost during the space shuttle program. A picture and autograph time will be provided to the students. Lunch will also be provided.

Nelson is excited to meet Colonel Wilcutt and learn about his adventures in space. I really want to know what its like in space and I get to meet an astronaut whos been there, he said.

Wilson will go on a discovery flight and receive an autographed photo of Colonel Wilcutt. Wilson will fly with Dr. Randy Greene, superintendent of Paducah Public Schools, on a flight around the Paducah area. Flight arrangements will be made with Wilson as weather allows.

Hamby and Ybarzabal will receive a Space Quest 2011 Summer Camp Voucher and Terry Wilcutt autographed photo. The voucher is for up to $100 off a summer camp at the Challenger Learning Center.

In the coming weeks, CLC at Paducah Director Mellisa Duncan will also visit the winners at their schools to present them a certificate of participation.

We strive everyday to continue the education mission of the crew and Christa McAuliffe at the Challenger Learning Center. We want to honor the whole crew who believed in the importance of education, said Duncan. We are proud of all the students who paid tribute to them by participating in the essay contest.

For more information, contact the CLC at 270-534-3101 or visit them on the web at