Scobee celebrates Fiesta with space mission

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James Dusek

Food, drink, a planetarium show and a Fiesta medal are included.

By Wally Perez

Scobee Education Center will host a Fiesta-themed simulated space mission in celebration of the city’s annual event 6:30-8:30 p.m. April 21 at the center.

The center created Fiesta de la Tierra and simulated space missions similar to it because of interest from people who are curious about what goes on in the Challenger center.

Typically, the center is open for children, and most of the usage comes from school field trips, center Director Rick Varner said April 12.

The event typically falls into the same time period as Earth Day, so the mission pays homage to that.

Tickets are $20 and cover the mission, food and drink, a Fiesta medal and a planetarium show that ends the night.

Mexican botanas and non-alcoholic drinks will be included.

“There’s a high fascination for people who don’t get to go in there (Challenger center)… they want to see what it’s like, what the kids do there,” Varner said. “It’s a cool, immersive experience.”

Varner said there were inquiries when the center first opened about how adults would get to participate in these missions.

Varner said simulated missions shouldn’t be just for kids, but grown-ups, too.

The center offers public missions like this one and a Valentine’s Day-themed one in February.

In the simulated missions, participants take on the roles of mission control and astronauts.

In each mission, problem-solving scenarios occur where participants are required to do some quick thinking under certain conditions.

“We’ve had some people who’ve come to every mission we’ve had,” Varner said about the popularity of the missions.

The missions bring in children who get their parents to come back with them after they’ve been here with their school.

“Once they do it, they enjoy it — the experience. It’s a fun, cool, different thing,” Varner said.

“It’s like a dinner theater where you solve a murder mystery,” he said. “It’s immersive, you’re playing a role … there aren’t actors surrounding you.”

One of the main differences is there is science and engineering involved.

Varner said in the past they’ve had mariachi guitarists come out, but don’t plan on it this year because the mission doesn’t receive the same turnout as the Valentine’s mission.

“As it is, it’s like they get the mission for $5 when you add the medal, food and shows,” Varner said.

Those who participate in the mission will receive the limited edition 2017 Scobee Education Center Fiesta medal. The medal commemorates the Challenger STS-51L crew.

On Jan. 28, 1986, the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff because of a component failure, claiming the lives of all seven astronauts on board.

Additionally, the medal showcases the three Challenger Learning Center missions launching at Scobee and highlights the first total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States in nearly 40 years in August.

Those who are interested but not attending the event may purchase the medal from the center for $10.

During the event, two participants will be named Scobee Education Center Fiesta king and queen, which is usually for the children participating in the mission.

“Last year, it was a very fun part of the event. The children got their picture taken with a sash and crown,” Varner said.

Children who wish to participate must read at a sixth grade level or higher and be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Varner said the rule is applied because it wouldn’t be appropriate for a first- or second-grader, but said he’s had people inquire about programs for younger children.

The center runs a micronaut program for children in pre-K to second grade.

“We need the resources for that,” Varner said. “We have a great program, but it isn’t expansive enough at this time.”

To end the night, all participants will have the chance to view an optional 9 p.m. showing of the “Dynamic Earth” and extreme planets planetarium program.

To register, visit For more information on the event or other planetarium shows, call 210-486-0100.


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