November 14, 2018 – Colorado students will soon have a chance to visit Mars thanks to Lockheed Martin. The company announced a $150,000 grant which will provide the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado Springs with a next-generation Mission to Mars upgrade for its spacecraft and mission control simulator.
The grant will allow students to participate in “Expedition Mars,” a new, immersive mission module that challenges future astronauts to work together in search of signs of water on the Red Planet. The missions will provide hands-on labs, such as robotics navigation and oxygen testing; exposure to major Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts; and an introduction to academic paths and career connections in aerospace.
The new module is possible through a major upgrade of the Challenger Center’s 16-year-old interactive simulator software and hardware. This upgrade, and training of the Center’s staff on the new system, is made possible by the Lockheed Martin grant. The new Expedition to Mars mission module will be available to students in October 2019.
This type of training and development of the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers is important to Lockheed Martin.
“From landing NASA’s first spacecraft on Mars in 1976 to landing the next spacecraft on Mars in two weeks, Lockheed Martin Space has built spacecraft and systems that have explored every planet in our solar system,” said Kay Sears, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Military Space. “To continue this proud legacy, we are going to need a lot more engineers and scientists in the future. This investment in the Challenger Center now is just the smart thing to do.”
“Thanks to Lockheed Martin, it is expected that our next-generation spacecraft simulator will take more than 400,000 students into space and to Mars over the next 50 years,” said Robert Fredell, President & CEO of the Challenger Center. “Lockheed Martin’s contribution will help us continue to be the leading informal STEM education center in southern Colorado, inspiring youth in math, science, engineering and technology careers.”
Following the check presentation, 7th graders from the Vanguard School in Colorado Springs demonstrated a “Rendezvous with a Comet” mission on the Challenger Center’s existing simulator. The simulator and Center’s staff have delivered space exploration inspiration to more than 200,000 Colorado school children since the educational facility opened its doors in 2002.
Lockheed Martin Space, headquartered near Denver, continues to be a leader in the space industry. Current projects include: operating eight spacecraft for NASA, with the newest, the InSight Mars Lander scheduled to land on the Red Planet on November 26; building the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation GPS III satellites, the first of which is scheduled to launch in December; and building NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the world’s only exploration-class spaceship that will take humans out into deep space, including the Moon and Mars.