‘Roger That!’ returns to Chaffee Planetarium

Roger That! now in its eighth installment, features interactive activities for children. Photo courtesy Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum and Grand Valley State University have teamed up for a multi-day event celebrating space exploration and the life of Roger B. Chaffee. The program now in its eighth installment is aptly titled, “Roger That!”

“Our ongoing partnership with GVSU to host ‘Roger That!’ has given our organizations the opportunity to bring more knowledge and curiosity to the community around space and those who pioneer it,” said Rob Schuitema, the GRPM’s Director of Public Programs. One such pioneer is Grand Rapids native Chaffee, who was an American naval officer and aviator, aeronautical engineer, and NASA astronaut in the Apollo program.

On Jan. 27, 1967, tragedy struck the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle when a flash fire occurred in command module 012 during a launch pad test in preparation for what was supposed to be the first piloted flight, the AS-204 mission. Chaffee was among the three astronauts, and was preparing for his first space flight when he died in this tragic accident. (The other two astronauts were Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, a veteran of Mercury and Gemini missions and Lt. Col. Edward H. White, the astronaut who had performed the first United States extravehicular activity during the Gemini program.)

Roger That! 2024 is a rare opportunity to connect to experts who are making human lives in space better and finding new places where humans could potentially live,” said GVSU professor of anthropology and “Roger “That!” co-organizer Deana Weibel. “What do humans need to be able to live in space? How do we deal with the challenges astronauts face? This year’s event allows students and community members to connect to those on the forefront of space medicine, biology, engineering and more who are uncovering the secrets of life in the universe.”

The 2024 installment of Roger That!, kicks off on Friday, Feb. 16. The programming will focus on life in space, and takes a broad look at life, including microbes, plants, animals, extraterrestrial life, and homo sapiens, living things on other celestial bodies, missions to find microbes, and considerations about where else in our solar system could life be present. The programming will also take a look at what it’s like to be a human in space.

Retired NASA astronaut Dr. Robert Satcher will present a speech at a free academic conference Friday, February 16, at 6:30 p.m. at GVSU’s Seidman College of Business located at 50 Front Ave. SW, Grand Rapids.

Robert ‘Bobby’ Satcher official astronaut portrait.
Photo by Robert Markowitz.

The lecture is free through registration and open to educators and the general public. The academic presentations will also be viewable over Zoom, and Satcher’s in-person talk will be streamed live. An array of speakers will precede the evening talk with Satcher.

The speakers include botanist and molecular biologist Mark Staves, GVSU professor of cell and molecular biology; scientist and STEM communicator Niamh Shaw; Debarati Chattopadhyay, Europa Clipper technical lead; GVSU Herbarium Director and analog astronaut Tim Evans; aerospace physiologist and cardiologist George Pantalos and Starpath co-founder Mihir Gondhalekar.

GVSU will also feature two workshops by faculty members, covering topics such as the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Satcher will speak again at the Grand Rapids Public Museum on Saturday, Feb. 17, 11 a.m.  Tickets for this lecture are available free of charge at grpm.org/rogerthat. Advance ticketing is strongly recommended as the lecture is expected to reach capacity quickly.

“This year will undoubtedly be another highly sought after event to experience; where participants of all ages can learn about life in space, hear from Astronaut Robert Satcher and his experiences with NASA, and discover more about astronomy through hands-on STEAM educational activities,” Schuitema said.

The Chaffee Planetarium was originally opened in 1994 and has gone through more recent renovations to provide the best experience for visitors. For additional information including hours of operation, admission fees including Kent County discounts, and exhibit/event listings, visit grpm.org.

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