FRAMINGHAM (CBS) — It was 25 years ago that the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff killing all seven astronauts on board, including America’s first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe of Framingham.

But McAuliffe’s legacy lives on at her alma mater, Framingham State University, where Friday several dozen middle school students were immersed in the McAuliffe Center, a very realistic mock-up of a futuristic space station on Mars.

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WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields reports.

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“This is a mirror image of Christa,” says the Center’s director, Mary Lipscomb, who graduated from FSU with Christa. “She was all about kids and teaching. She would love this.”

The kids from Ashland loved it. In one room, they were controlling a would-be space station on Mars, the other room looked like a space ship which on this day was leaving Mars for the six-month trip back to earth.

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“I am having so much fun, and learning so much,” says sixth grader Rebecca Cotmayer, “and yea, I want to go to Mars some day.”

Bill Shields