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Sue Nelson reports for BBC News
"Everyone gets a chance to go into space"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 December, 1999, 13:05 GMT
Space mission for young learners
Paul Roche Paul Roche guides pupils at the space centre


A space exploration education centre, claimed as the first of its kind outside the United States, has been opened in Leicester.

The Challenger Learning Centre, which re-creates a Nasa-style mission control and the interior of a space station, was opened by the Education Secretary, David Blunkett.

Children will be able to carry out scientific experiments as they take part in a 'mission', including research in biology, chemistry and weighing a meteorite with a robotic arm.

Pupils carry out experiments using a robot Pupils carry out experiments using a robot
Mr Blunkett said that the "glamour" of space investigation would help to engage the interest of pupils with the underlying science and technology.

Pupils visiting the centre will be given roles as they carry out a simulated mission - from those running operations from mission control to those playing the parts of astronauts and scientists in space.

There is a simulated lift-off and then the pupil-astronauts make their way to meet Halley's Comet, where they have to launch a probe to investigate the substances that make up a comet.

The project marks the first phase of the 'National Space Science Centre', created by the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council, due to fully open in 2001.

There are already a number of Challenger Learning Centres across the United States and Canada, created in commemoration of the crew who died in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after take-off.

The Leicester project is the first such centre to be opened outside the United States and Canada.

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