A day after a real space probe beat the odds to land on Mars, students from Ms. O'Neill-Aroune's Brooks Hill Elementary class in Fairport tried to do the same at the Challenger Learning Center.

In an isolated pod off the main space shuttle simulator, A.J. Hain connected cables to an impressive piece of shuttle equipment. 

"Oh I love it," said Hain. "You get to work with high-tech stuff; [I] get to be with my friends."

Fifth graders get to be with math and science in as interactive an experience as you can find in a field trip. Just ask Tatum Watt.

"Everyone's working together to complete our mission," Watt said. 

The men who lead dozens of school "missions" at Challenger each fall and winter say they see a life-changing event when young people team up in science.

The learning center, born as a living memorial to the space shuttle crew that perished in 1986, has become the most notable immersive STEM experience in the Rochester area.

Thousands of students have experienced Challenger at the Strasenburgh Planetarium for a generation.

"I see a memory that's going to last with them forever," mission commander Andy Raab said.

The memories Raab speaks of will soon be made somewhere else.

In renovating the planetarium, Rochester Museum and Science Center opted to not renew Challenger's lease after it expires in June.

Monroe BOCES No. 1 manages the Challenger program and quickly developed a relocation strategy after RMSC's decision. 

"We've been negotiating with local businesses, local colleges, and local school districts. Right now, we're looking to come up with the best, the most cost effective as well as the best location for our center," said Steve Orcutt, BOCES director of Instructional Programs for Technology Services.

Orcutt said finding space for Challenger has been the primary challenge in placing it beyond June. 

Parents like Katherine Christiano of Fairport believe the program needs to be kept alive. Like many parents, she witnessed Challenger's impact while serving as a chaperone for her child's field trip. 

"It's a fascinating facility," Christiano said. "It's a great learning opportunity for them. I would hate to see it go to another community."

Orcutt said Monroe BOCES hoped to announce Challenger's next mission in the next few weeks.