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McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center

McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center is located in New Hampshire
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
Location within New Hampshire
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center is located in the United States
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (the United States)
LocationConcord, New Hampshire
Coordinates43°13′28″N 71°31′59″W / 43.224583°N 71.533184°W / 43.224583; -71.533184
TypeScience museum
Collection sizePlanetarium, replica Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle
Visitors50,000 annually
DirectorJeanne Gerulskis
PresidentPaul A. Burkett, Esq.
CuratorDr. Kimberly Duncan
Public transit accessConcord Area Transport

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 stated mission is to inspire new generations to explore space, through engaging, artful, and entertaining activities focused on astronomy, aviation, Earth and space science.

The 45,000-square-foot (4,200 m2) museum 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, after his death in 1998.[1] It is one of two public planetaria in northern New England, along with the Lyman Spitzer Jr. Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

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.[1]

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.[2]

In 2019, the Discovery Center served as one of the primary settings of the independent film First Signal produced by New England–based company The Ashton Times.[3]


The Discovery Center's exhibits include a 1956 XF8U-2 jet on loan from the National Naval Aviation Museum,[4] 1:1 scale models of the Mercury capsule inside and Mercury-Redstone outside, exhibits on planetary science, lunar exploration, Space Shuttle exhibits including a simulator and scale models, aviation, weather, science fiction toys and memorabilia including the suit worn by Grace Lee Whitney in the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and chairs from Geordi La Forge's room in Star Trek: The Next Generation; in addition, the Discovery Center brings in three traveling exhibits annually on science and engineering.[5]

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center operates NASA's Educator Resource Center in New Hampshire and is a New Hampshire Space Grant institution.[6]


The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center's programs include the statewide high school "Astronomy Bowl" competition, annual "Aerospacefest" aerospace festival in the spring,[7] stargazing with the New Hampshire Astronomical Society along with a public science talk and planetarium show the first Friday of every month, a "teen night series" the second Friday night each month, an annual science symposium for educators the last week of June, an annual New Hampshire Space Grant Internship, homeschool and teacher workshops, toddler science workshops and summer camps.


  1. ^ a b Bodell, Jon (February 2, 2016). "Everything you need to know about the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center". The Concord Insider. Archived from the original on September 10, 2017. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  2. ^ Corwin, Emily (August 9, 2012). "Severed From State, Is McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center Ready For Lift Off?". NPR. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  3. ^ Weekes, Julia Ann (July 1, 2021). "Sci-fi film 'First Signal' takes over McAuliffe-Shepard Discover Center". New Hampshire Union Leader. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  4. ^ "1956 Crusader welcomed to Discovery Center". Fosters Daily Democrat. December 20, 2011. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  5. ^ "'Star Trek' items on display at NH center". Fosters Daily Democrat. May 8, 2009. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  6. ^ "New Hampshire Space Grant Affiliates: Christa McAuliffe Planetarium". New Hampshire Space Grant Consortium. Archived from the original on August 28, 2008. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  7. ^ "AerospaceFest". Retrieved February 20, 2023.
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McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
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