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.


The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center is a sustainable memorial that will engage minds, make learning fun, and inspire people of all ages to pursue lifelong learning about our universe.

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 We Do


  • Two floors of interactive permanent exhibits on astronomy, aviation, Earth and space science, space history, general science & engineering

  • Two+ temporary special exhibitions each year

  • Outdoor astronomy & space science exhibits


  • Full-dome, digital Sky-Skan Definiti theater

  • Tonight's Sky show presented live and updated to show what is visible in the night sky each season

  • Brand new and old favorite immersive planetarium shows on astronomy, aviation, Earth and space science


  • AerospaceFest - annual aerospace festival the 1st Saturday in May

  • Super Stellar Fridays - Special evenings the 1st Friday of each month

  • Summer STEM Camps for Kids

  • School Field Trips, Homeschool Workshops

  • Special programs

Science Store



Strategic Plan for 2018 - 2022: Synopsis 

Sustainability – Pursuit of sustainability is at the heart of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center's strategic plan.  We define sustainability as an organizational framework for pursuing our mission, attracting an ever-growing audience to free-choice STEM education, and establishing operating reserves of 50% of our annual budget.  To that end, we are committed to sharpening our focus on particular initiatives within the following priority areas over the next five years:

Strategic Priorities 

1.  Mission – Deliver to our diverse audiences engaging educational offerings to increase our impact and appeal

2.  Leadership – Develop active and effective board leadership and participation to boldly advance MSDC

3.  Finances & Development – Increase both earned and contributed income to become financially robust

4.  Staffing & Volunteers – Support and build our staff and volunteer corps to more fully serve our audiences

5.  Marketing and Communication – Reach out to and grow our audiences through a variety of communication platforms