Scobee ready to launch ‘expedition’ to Mars

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Marc Harrison, VIA board member, watches teachers, parents and students of Scobee Elementary experience the Transporter 2 mission simulator Oct.31 in the Challenger Center during the grand opening of the Scobee Education Center. The simulator features authentic take-off footage and vibrating seats for a realistic space launch. File

Visitors to SACtacular Oct. 20 can catch free planetarium shows.

By Dillon Holloway

The “Expedition Mars” Challenger mission, funded through the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and NASA, will give young students the chance to experience a space mission simulation to the “Red Planet,” Center Director Rick Varner said Sept. 14 in an interview.

Scobee Education Center plans to run its first beta mission with Beacon Hill Elementary in late October.

The mission will see groups of students in fourth through eighth grade simulate being on a Martian base on Phobos, one of two moons associated with the planet and go from Phobos to the surface of Mars.

While appearing to be on the surface of Mars, the students will practice explorations with space robotics and other technologies.

The expedition has a storyline element to it as well.

“While the students are preparing to travel to the surface of Mars, an asteroid is revealed to be heading toward their location, so the kids have to make decisions based on this new data,” Varner explained.

“So when the kids come in here, they get all of the different academic skills that are taught in the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge Standards) that the teachers are required to teach, but beyond the TEKS they receive team-building, communication and other life skills,” Varner said.

Upon registration for the program, teachers are required to participate in a workshop with Jennifer Becerra, the lead flight director and academic program coordinator of Scobee Education Center.

During the workshop, teachers are taught about the mission and given some of the skill sets for the activities that they can pass on to their students in the weeks leading up to that class’s specific Challenger mission.

The Challenger Center for Space Science Education likes to say, “this is not just a field trip,” Varner said.

Educators interested in registering their classes for a Challenger mission can visit, which contains instructions under the “events” tab on how to sign up.

The spots for challenger missions are on a first-come, first-served basis so teachers are encouraged to begin the process as soon as possible, Varner said.

Currently, there are two Challenger missions available to the public per year.

The Friday before Valentine’s Day the “Over the Moon” mission is held for audiences 21 or older with wine and cheese being served.

The registration for “Over the Moon” starts in January with last season’s tickets being priced at $30 per person. The price for this year has not been decided.

The second mission available to the public takes place during Fiesta San Antonio. Tickets for last season’s mission were priced at $20 each.

The mission is called the “Fiesta de la Tierra Challenger Space Mission” and has been designated an official Fiesta event.     

During SACtacular Oct. 20, an annual event this college sponsors for the community, Scobee Education Center will show four films beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the planetarium. These will be free to the public.

Nov. 4 will see the education center and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce team up to present the CORE4STEM Expo family day.

CORE4STEM will take place 8 a.m.-2 p.m. and is a free event to the public.

The CORE4STEM event aims to teach families about STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, careers in San Antonio with hands-on educational activities and presentations.

For more information on Scobee Education Center and upcoming events, visit or call 210-486-0100.


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