SAC Challenger Center/Scobee Planetarium "Tops Out"
Thursday, September 26, 2013
– More than 100 guests witnessed the “topping out” of
the Challenger Center/Scobee Planetarium construction project at San Antonio
College. Topping out is a tradition in
the construction industry celebrated when a milestone is reached – typically either
the positioning of the final beam, or reaching the highest point of the
included speeches from several dignitaries, including Dr. June Scobee Rodgers,
founding chair of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, Jim
Perschbach, San Antonio Challenger Center Advisory Committee chair, Alamo
Colleges Chancellor Dr. Bruce Leslie and SAC President Dr. Robert Zeigler.
SAC’s project includes a
complete renovation of the Scobee Planetarium, built in 1962, and new
construction of a Challenger Center.
“Challenger Centers offer
simulated space missions, science education and teambuilding programs for all
ages – children through adults,” Dr. Zeigler said in his remarks. He also noted that it was fitting to
celebrate progress of the renovation of the SAC Planetarium at this time, as 25
years ago this week the United States returned to space after a three-year
hiatus following the Challenger disaster in 1986 in which the crew was lost
shortly after launch.
From that tragedy, the
surviving family members, led by Dr. Rodgers, developed the Challenger Center
concept. Now there are 42 Challenger
Centers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and South Korea. The commander of the Challenger mission was
Dick Scobee, who attended San Antonio College while stationed at Kelly Air
Force Base in the early 1960s. SAC’s
Planetarium was rededicated to Commander Scobee’s memory in 1994.
“The Challenger Center and
Scobee Planetarium (will be) an incubator for STEM education – growing the
interest of students of all ages and helping connect them to other STEM
opportunities in our college district and city,” Dr. Leslie told the crowd.
Following the traditional
placing of a tree at the highest point on the building, guests were invited to
sign a section on the outside of the planetarium as a sort of time capsule. Among the special guests leaving their
autographs on the building were faculty, staff, students and three former
astronauts now living in the San Antonio area: Dan Brandenstein, Tom Henricks
and Eileen Collins. All three were
shuttle commanders during their NASA tenure. The signatures will eventually be
covered by a metal shell over the planetarium portion of the building.
Construction of the newly
renovated Scobee Planetarium is expected to be complete in early January 2014. The
Planetarium will re-open to the public shortly thereafter. The Challenger
Center portion of the structure will be structurally complete in January as
well; Challenger missions will launch from SAC starting in fall 2014.
Photo Caption: Special Guests, Dr. June Scobee
Rodgers and Mrs. Kathie Scobee Fulgham join Dr. Robert Zeigler, SAC President,
as they sign the “time capsule” on the Scobee Planetarium. Photo By: Leonard
Ziegler, SAC Photographer