NEW YORK (WCBS 880/CBS 2/ AP) — It was 25 years ago today that the the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney visits a center in Paramus where the memory of the mission lives on

The accident on Jan. 28, 1986 — just 73 seconds into flight — killed all seven on board — six astronauts and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.

The spirit of the Challenger explorers lives on in the Challenger learning centers. The Buehler Challenger and Science Center in Paramus, N.J. — the 21st to be built — was founded in 1994. Director Kathie Klein told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney that families of the Challenger crew created the centers in almost every state to carry on the educational mission of the ill-fated trip.

“We are really what has come out of a terrible tragedy,” Klein said. “It’s really tragedy to triumph.”

Assisstant Director Bridgette Pronovost said school children from as far as Pennsylvania visit the center. An evening of events to commemorate the anniversary will be held Friday evening at the center.

“We should remember them for wanting the mission to continue and that’s what we always say here, ‘The mission continues,'” Pronovost said.

Meanwhile, NASA officials, families and former astronauts gathered Friday morning at an outdoor memorial at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to mark the somber anniversary.

Photo Gallery: Challenger Explosion — 25 Years Later

The anniversary comes as NASA is winding down the space shuttle program. The fleet will be retired after three more flights this year to the International Space Station.

Do you remember the Challenger explosion? Share your thoughts below.

Speakers at Friday’s ceremony included the widow of Challenger’s commander, June Scobee Rodgers, who was instrumental in establishing the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. The 48th learning center opens Friday in Louisville, Ky.

“The entire world knew how the Challenger crew died,” she said. “We wanted the world to know how they lived and for what they were risking their lives.”

The other members of the Challenger crew were Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair and Gregory Jarvis.

The ceremony was held at the Space Mirror Memorial, a granite monument bearing the names of all 24 astronauts who have died in the line of duty.

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