5th - 8th Simulated Space Missions

A simulated space mission experience is an exploration in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for your students. Choose between sending your students on a RENDEZVOUS WITH A COMET (5th-7th) or EXPEDITION MARS (6th-8th) mission. After a short pre-mission briefing, students will take their places in the simulators to assume control of their adventure.

Mission Control
In Mission Control, students will take charge of their space mission when they become the flight control technicians responsible for guiding astronauts through their mission.

In the Spacecraft, students become astronauts responsible for navigating through space, conducting experiments, monitoring crew health and safety, and building a probe to launch in space.

Crew Exchange 
Halfway through the mission, students will switch places, so that each participant has the opportunity to experience BOTH Mission Control and the Spacecraft.

A simulated space mission accommodates 16-32 students and costs $500 (September - December) and $600 (January - May). Scholarships are available.

Mission times are 9:00 -11:30 am and 11:45 am - 2:15 pm, Monday through Friday (except holidays).

Click to learn how Rendezvous with a Comet and Expedition Mars align with Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.


Are you ready to sign up for a mission? Use the "pre-launch" checklist below to make sure that your mission goes off without any glitches.

Step 1: Schedule your mission.

Schedule Your Mission

Scholarship are available to K-12 schools and their students participating in simulated space missions and programs.  Awards, ranging from 25%-75% of mission and program costs, are based on demonstrated need, student information, educational impact and fund availability.  Schools and/or students with extenuating circumstances may qualify for additional funding.  Listing a request amount does not guarantee award for requested amount.  Teacher will be notified approximately one week after the application is received.  Contact the CLC at 309-268-8700 with any questions.  Email completed application to clc@heartland.edu or fax to 309-268-7984. To be eligible for a scholarship:

  • Each individual teacher must complete a separate application.
  • Teacher must register and attend a CLC Teacher Training Workshop.
  • School provides transportation to bring students to CLC on scheduled date(s).
  • Failure to comply with scholarship award terms may result in denial of funds.

Scholarship Application

5-8 School Mission Registration Form

Step 2: Sign up for Teacher Training Workshop.

Register for a Workshop

Teacher training workshops equip teachers with knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to prepare students for their Rendezvous with a Comet or Voyage to Mars mission. While there is no charge for teacher training workshops, it is strongly recommend that teachers attend a workshop prior to their scheduled mission. 

Upcoming workshops are scheduled for: January 9, 2018 and April 24, 2018 from 9am-3pm.  Classroom activities, lunch and 6 PD units are included. 

Step 3: Prepare your students.

After your teacher training workshop, implement CLC curriculum to prepare your students for their CLC. This curriculum may be used in conjunction with any school district's curriculum or as a stand-alone curriculum. Click on the link below for your level of instruction and its alignment to Illinois Learning Standards.

Rendezvous with a Comet Curriculum (Recommend 5th-7th Grade)

Expedition Mars Curriculum (Recommend 6th-8th Grade)

Step 4: Extend the mission.

Phenomenal Physics presentation is available to enhance and extend your CLC mission. Cost of presentation is $75 per group (10-32 students). Dr. Jay Ansher from Illinois State University Physics Department, an ISU college student, or a CLC staff member provide a presentation on physical science topics with exciting demonstrations and fun hands-on activities that will engage the entire class.

Mars Science Academy (Grades 5-8) Students experience hands-on science activities related to planning a mission to Mars. Students will work within teams utilizing NASA roles. In addition, students will work with other teams to reach decisions as they develop skills in the areas of teamwork, communication, and decision making. Each session is expected, but not guaranteed, to end with live interaction with a NASA or other STEM expert to discuss STEM careers with students and encourage future efforts. Cost of the MSA program is $125. Teachers may choose from one of three options:

• MSA: Launch focuses on the math and physical science behind launching a spacecraft to Mars.

• MSA: Land is an earth science based mission looking at the geology of Mars.

• MSA: Live is a life science based mission looking at keeping a crew alive on a Mars base.

Click "YES" on your mission registration form to register for one of the following programs: Phenomenal Physics, Mars Science Academy: Launch, Mars Science Academy: Land, or Mars Science Acadmey: Live.

Mars Science Academy is available in on-site at your school. Contact the CLC at (309) 268-8700 or email clc@heartland.edu to schedule Mars Science Academy for your class.

Avanti's sack lunches are available for purchase. Students may bring sack lunches to eat at the Challenger Learning Center or order from Avanti's. Avanti's sack lunches include sandwich, chips, cookie or applesauce, and water. Prices range from $3 to $6 per lunch. If you are interested in ordering Avanti's, download and complete the Avanti's lunch form. Then mail or fax at least two weeks prior to your mission. Click "YES" on your mission registration form to register for Avanti's

Payment for Phenomenal Physics, Mars Science Academy and/or Avanti's, payable to the Challenger Learning Center, is due the day of the mission.

Avanti's Order Form Packet Includes student and teacher order form.

Step 5: Complete necessary paperwork.

Don't forget to bring all of your paperwork to the Challenger Learning Center on the day of your mission:

Comet Mission Crew Manifest 
This form is used by the teacher to assign students to a team for the Rendezvous with a Comet mission.
Mars Mission Crew Manifest 
This form is used by the teacher to assign students to a team for the Expedition Mars mission.
Student Data Form 
This form is filled out by a parent or guardian on behalf of the student and returned to the Challenger Learning Center by the teacher prior to the mission.
Educator Data Form
This form is completed by the teacher and staff and returned to the Challenger Learning Center by the teacher prior to the mission.


Commemorate your mission with Challenger Learning Center merchandise and apparel. Click here for more information.


Contact Us

Challenger Learning Center
1500 W. Raab Rd.
Normal, IL 61761
Phone: 309-268-8700
Fax: 309-268-7984

Stacey Shrewsbury

Lead Flight Director
Phone: 309-268-8701

Susan Evens

Flight Director
Phone: 309-268-8704

Libby Torbeck

Flight Director
Phone: 309-268-8702

Crystal Johnson

Program Assistant
Phone: 309-268-8374

Jenna Brewer

Registration & Records Assistant
Phone: 309-268-8707