The 33rd anniversary of the Challenger Shuttle accident was January 28th. Wife of the late Commander Dick Scobee, Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, and their daughter Kathie Scobee Fulgham, remember this day with peace and find power in making huge efforts to further the mission of the Challenger. It’s about keeping the fallen astronauts memory’s alive.
For Dr. Rodgers, living during the age of space exploration has shaped her views on the importance of NASA. She remembers the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon and waking her children up in their South Carolina home that night so that they, too, could witness history.
“That was the most marvelous thing that could have happened in our country with the space program”, she said. “It became a wonderful part of history”.
Fulgham is a board member of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, a foundation that, among many things, recognized two major space exploration events with customized coins. The first coin manufactured was in remembrance of the Apollo 11 landing. It is a completely unique style.
“It’s concave and has two sides. On one side the helmet of an astronaut looking out and seeing the American Flag is pictured, the way the astronauts saw it. On the other side is the very first footprint on the moon” Fulgham describes.
The coin has a larger purpose than to just be a collector’s item. Each time a coin is purchased, the funds are split into three areas: the Smithsonian receives half, the Astronauts Memorial Foundation receives a quarter, and the Astronauts Scholarship Foundation receives a quarter. The first day the Apollo 11 coin was released, it raised $31 million in funds.
There will soon be a second coin, this time in honor of the Challenger crew.
“It’s a celebration of everything mankind has done to get here”, said Fulgham.
The day of the Challenger accident is one that most people will never forget. For the families of the crew, this is an especially daunting day.
“Numbness. Numb. Just quiet. We just wept”, said Dr. Rodgers about witnessing the event. “It was tragic to our family. It was tragic to the nation. All the world knew.”
After losing their beloved husband and father, Commander Dick Scobee, these two women took it upon themselves to do something about it rather than dwell on the sadness.
“My priority was to continue education and further the mission NASA had begun”, said Rodgers. “We wanted people to remember how they lived. What they were willing to risk their lives for. Not just how they died.”
25 years and 25 centers later the Challenger Center at UT-Chattanooga was built as the first to be built on a college campus. Chattanooga is also the first home of the Micronaut program for children.
“There’s a lot to be said about this University of Tennessee”, Rodgers said. Dr. Perry Storey is the director of UTC’s very own Challenger Center. He hopes the efforts of the Challenger Center help students gain an interest in space exploration. By hosting children’s field trips, private tours, and allowing UTC students to come and go, Dr. Storey and his colleagues keep the memory of the Challenger alive.
Dr. Storey said, “A new generation means a new generation of technology. The students of today will be the ones to do more exploration in space.”
The Challenger Centers promote interest in space exploration, in hopes to raise the next generation of people interested in science.
“I’m so proud of the students and educators for being inspired by our centers” Dr. Rodgers said.
We have Dr. Rodgers, Mrs. Fulgham, and directors of Challenger Centers like Dr. Storey to thank for bringing the Challenger Center program to life.
Meet the Storytellers
Jessica Boggs, Senior at UTC, is graduating this May with a degree in Communication and a minor in International Relations. Jessica is an experienced photojournalist and graphic designer. She is passionate about speaking for those without a voice through the lens of a camera. Contact Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaitlyn Evans-Witzel is an artistic photographer who focuses on weddings, elopements, and portraits. She loves the 1970s and country music and incorporates those styles into her photographs. Johnny Cash is among her favorites. Her work is displayed on vintagekaitlynphoto.com and she can be contacted at email@example.com.
Lauren Justice is a senior at UTC, majoring in Communication. She is experienced in marketing, journalistic writing, public relations, and design. After graduation, she wants to continue working for her current company, Red Bull, by transferring to the culture department. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marielle Echavez is a junior pursuing a degree in Communication and a minor in Psychology. She manages her own branch of custom apparel on campus. She has a passion for videography and being creative. She plans to pursue video production post-graduation. Contact her at email@example.com.