THOMASTON (AP) – A space simulation and science center named for the late teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe at her alma mater is getting a model of NASA’s space shuttle Challenger, courtesy of the Maine State Prison.

Until its departure next week, the shuttle replica, 44 inches long with a 30-inch wingspan, will remain on display at the prison’s showroom.

Ray Griffin, administrator for the McAuliffe/Challenger Center at Framingham State College in Massachusetts, requested the model after seeing the inmates’ woodworking skills on a recent trip through Maine.

Inmate Rod Whitten was chosen to create the shuttle from basswood, a soft, durable wood, said prison industries manager Bob Waldron.

The McAuliffe/Challenger Center at Framingham State College connected the prison with the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which provided the inmate with images, diagrams and charts for the replica project.

Whitten took about 300 hours to carve the shuttle, Waldron said. The carving has intricate detailing of each tile on the shuttle exterior and some hand-painted lettering, as well as decals.

The Massachusetts center was named for the late Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire teacher who graduate from Framingham State.

McAuliffe was selected from among more than 11,000 teachers who applied for the Challenger mission. She was chosen by NASA in 1985 and took a leave of absence that fall to train for the mission.

On Jan. 28, 1986, McAuliffe and six other crew members perished when the craft exploded 73 seconds after liftoff because of a booster failure.

In Massachusetts, the Framingham center was established to honor McAuliffe’s commitment to education by providing science and math programs. About 26,000 students visit the McAuliffe Center each year, Waldron said.

Inmates like Whitten earn between $1 and $2.50 per hour for their handiwork. The prison will earn $1,650 for the spaceship model, he said.

AP-ES-08-05-03 1130EDT

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