The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center is a science museum located in Concord, New Hampshire, United States, next door to the NHTI campus. The museum is dedicated to Christa McAuliffe, the Concord High School social studies teacher selected by NASA out of over 11,000 applicants to be the first Teacher in Space, and Alan Shepard, the Derry, New Hampshire, native and Navy test pilot who became the first American in space and one of only twelve human beings to walk on the Moon. The 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 45,000-square-foot (4,200 m2) McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center offers 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of interactive science and engineering exhibits, outdoor exhibits including a full-sized replica of a Mercury-Redstone rocket, a full-dome digital planetarium, an observatory, science store, café, portable digital planetarium and a full complement of on- and off-site educational programs.
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center began as a stand-alone planetarium serving as the official State of New Hampshire memorial to Christa McAuliffe. Opening in June 1990 as the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium, in 2001 it became the official state memorial to Admiral Alan Shepard as well. In 2009, the organization more than quadrupled in size when it added a science museum focused on astronomy, aviation, earth and space science; it was renamed the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. The grand opening was on March 6, 2009.
After 22 years as a State of New Hampshire agency, on January 1, 2013, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center separated from the state and became a private sector nonprofit operation. The State of New Hampshire retained ownership of the facility and grounds, but engaged in a long term lease with the new nonprofit operator, the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center Corporation.
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center’s programs include the statewide high school “Astronomy Bowl” competition, annual “Aerospacefest” aerospace festival in the spring, stargazing with the New Hampshire Astronomical Society the first Friday of the month along with a public science talk and planetarium show, a teen night series the second Friday night each month, homeschool and teacher workshops, an annual science symposium for educators the last week of June, an annual New Hampshire Space Grant Internship, toddler science workshops and summer camps.