The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) “sent students to Mars” through the Challenger Center of Colorado, a facility that uses space-themed simulated learning environments to engage students in dynamic, hands-on opportunities. Founded in 1986, Challenger Center was created to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51L. This year, in an effort to encourage kids to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) the Rocky Mountain NDIA chapter is enabling students to understand, learn, and experience what it’s like in a simulated space environment.

Challenger Center of Colorado NDIA 4Students take part in the next best thing to an actual space flight with a mission control room designed after NASA’s Johnson Space Center and an orbiting space station modeled after the laboratory on the International Space Station. During a space mission, team members work as scientists and engineers to solve real-world problems in an engaging, immersive environment.

Our chapter enabled home-schooled students the unique opportunity to participate in a “voyage to Mars.” Their crew, arriving from Earth on the Mars Transport Vehicle, was specially trained to replace the existing crew of astronauts, which has manned Mars Control for the past two years. Control of the incoming flight was transferred from Houston’s Mission Control to Mars Control at Chryse Station. After arriving on the Martian surface, the crew of students collected and analyzed a number of planetary samples and data. The information they gathered was vital to scientists and explorers to help give them a better understanding of the red planet.

This space experience was just one of many NDIA provided opportunities for students to experience an exciting STEM-related profession. Who knows? Maybe one of these kids could be the next great pioneer in space. Great job kids and all who made this happen.