Challenger Center founder returns for construction milestone Thursday.
By Diana M. Sanchez
Dr. June Scobee-Rodgers will speak at a “topping out” ceremony for the Francis R. Scobee Planetarium and Challenger Center Thursday.
Scobee-Rodgers is the widow of Francis R. Scobee, an astronaut who was killed in the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986.
She also serves as a founding chairman for the Challenger Center programs.
The ceremony, which marks the point in construction when the steel frame is completed, is from 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m. at Scobee Planetarium.
Scobee-Rodgers said Wednesday by phone she will speak about the global effort to engage children and students in programs involved with the development of the new center. “We hope to motivate and inspire in youngsters, through the Challenger Center, the value of science, technology, engineering and math,” she said.
Accompanying Scobee-Rodgers will be her daughter Kathie Scobee Fulgham, a journalism major who was born in this city.
Scobee-Rodgers and the shuttle commander attended evening classes at this college. “Scobee and I were the first generations going to college,” she said. “It was an amazing struggle for us to come up with the money for our evening classes.”
She continued, “He wanted to fly and I wanted to be an educator. I encouraged him to go ahead and finish so that he can get a scholarship and I would follow suit.”
Scobee continued to attend night classes here, receiving two years of college credit. This led to his selection for the Airman’s Education and Commissioning Program.
Scobee earned his wings in 1966 and logged more than 6,500 hours flying time in 45 types of aircraft.
When Scobee-Rodgers, author, speaker and educator who travels the world, heard the Challenger Center was demolished at Brooks City Base in 2000, she decided that this college would be the appropriate location for a new Challenger Center.
“I have traveled all over the country, living everywhere, and San Antonio is the one place I feel like is home. It is a dream to me, where our lives began at SAC,” Scobee-Rodgers said.
Planetarium Director Bob Kelley said, “She is the driving force and the creation of all the Challenger centers. Being a person who used to live in San Antonio, she has a lot of fond feelings for our city and SAC.”
With the addition of the Challenger Center, the planetarium is expected to increase from 3,950 square feet to 21,519 square feet. The center will wrap around the existing planetarium and includes new theater seating, LED lighting, sound system and restrooms.
The Challenger Center will have the latest technology, including an interactive mission control and space simulator on the first floor, classrooms on the second floor and observatory on the rooftop. A gift shop will also be incorporated.
“Every time we build a Challenger Center, we learn something new from the community building it, so just imagine what we can gain from the knowledge and experience from SAC,” Scobee-Rodgers said.
The planetarium opened in 1961, and in 1994, it was renamed to honor Scobee.
“I have unbelievably fantastic memories of this city itself, downtown and the campus,” Scobee-Rodgers said. “They are all great memories and I look forward to the Challenger Center offering all kinds of excitement for future generations.”