Mission Statement

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center’s mission is to inspire every generation to reach for the stars, through engaging, artful and entertaining activities that explore astronomy, aviation, earth and space science.

Who We Honor

Alan Bartlett Shepard (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) was the first American to travel to space. Selected from a pool of 500 test pilots, he became one of the seven original Mercury astronauts and launched into space aboard a Mercury-Redstone rocket on May 5, 1961. He returned to space on January 31, 1971 as commander of the Apollo XIV mission, and three days later became one of only 12 human beings to set foot on the Moon! A native son, he grew up in East Derry, NH, attending Pinkerton Academy and then the Naval Academy at Annapolis. He demonstrated great courage and curiosity as he played a key role in the development of our nation’s space program and served as a role model as the U.S. aspired to explore the universe outside earthly bounds. He also made space more humanly accessible by coining the "astronaut's prayer" and being the first person to enjoy golf on the moon! We honor his memory and accomplishments at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.


Sharon Christa McAuliffe (née Corrigan, September 2, 1948 – January 28, 1986) was one of the seven crew members of Space Shuttle Challenger mission STS-51-L and the first teacher in space. While the "space race" captured the nation's enthusiasm for exploration, the shuttle program, envisioned to be an economical workhorse ferrying people and material to build a low earth orbit space station, did not enjoy the same support. To recapture the public's interest in its programs, NASA launched the “Teacher in Space” program that would allow a teacher to broadcast lessons from space to American classrooms. McAuliffe was selected out of over 11,000 applicants to become the first educator astronaut. Tragically, the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch; all seven crew members were lost. Although Christa was unable to teach the lessons she planned during that mission, her motivation to open minds, her emphasis on experiential learning and her belief that  "I touch the future, I teach," guides our design of educational programs and exhibits at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.

What's At The Museum

The Discovery Center has an amazing collection of innovative, interactive exhibits to explore. Delve into the worlds of astronomy, aviation, Earth and space sciences and become immersed in this entertaining learning environment.
There are programs at the Discovery Center for all ages! From our planetarium theater to our high-tech observatory to workshops for Little Explorers and educators alike… there is something for everyone at your Discovery Center.