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Walter Cronkite has agreed to act as honorary chairman of a national fund-raising campaign for the Challenger Foundation, the organization established last year to raise money for a new national science-education center.

The foundation was created by the families of the seven astronauts who were killed Jan. 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded a minute after liftoff. It is the only memorial effort endorsed by all the families.

The center is to be a learning environment where teachers and students can come to study mathematics and science.

Mr. Cronkite, former managing editor of the CBS Evening News, will speak on behalf of the foundation and participate in fund-raising activities over the next three years, said David L. Winstead, president of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. So far, it has raised 2.5 million of a proposed $15-million endowment.

Former Senator Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman elected to serve in both houses of the Congress, last week won the Academic Freedom Award given by the National Council for the Social Studies and Social Issues Resources Series Inc.

Senator Smith, 89, who represented Maine in the U.S. House and Senate for nearly 30 years, was cited for her courage in opposing Senator Joseph McCarthy's 1950's attacks on the alleged Communist influence in politics, literature, and the arts.

The award included $1,500 for the Margaret Chase Smith Foundation, which runs a Skowhegan, Me., library on law and politics.

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