• Tracey Tomme, Cosmosphere vice president of education, right, introduces June Scobee Rodgers, founding chair of the Challenger Center, top center on the monitor, to students from Manhattan and Stafford over a video conference Friday, March 10, 2017, at the Cosmosphere. Scobee Rodgers answered students' questions. The Cosmosphere arranged the video conference after students from Manhattan performed a tribute last month at the Cosmosphere to the astronauts who died in the Challenger disaster.

Musical tribute to shuttle's crew leads to virtual meetup with Challenger Center founder, widow of astronaut

Sunday, March 12, 2017

June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Space Shuttle Challenger Cmdr. Dick Scobee and founding chairwoman of the Challenger Center, answered questions from students in Manhattan and Stafford on Friday in a video conference organized by the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson.

The video conference was arranged after students from Dwight D. Eisenhower and Susan B. Anthony middle schools in Manhattan performed an original tribute concert Feb. 23 at the Cosmosphere for the astronauts killed in 1986 when Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff.

Cosmosphere Vice President of Education Tracey Tomme said that during the performance, she had wished Scobee Rodgers had been at the Cosmosphere to see it. The performance was recorded and is being made into a DVD.

"I can't wait to see the video of your performance," Scobee Rodgers told the students. "I've heard it was wonderful."

The families of the astronauts killed aboard Challenger created the Challenger Center to carry on the shuttle crew's educational mission.

"They wanted to inspire students around the world and help teachers teach lessons," Scobee Rodgers said.

She spoke to the students from the Challenger STEM Learning Center at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, one of dozens of Challenger Learning Centers in the world.

Answering a question from the students, Scobee Rodgers said the grieving process after the disaster was tough for the families, because it was such a public event.

"Everyone in the country felt like it happened to them, because it happened to our space explorers," she said.

Scott Freeby, the Manhattan teacher who organized the performance, told Scobee Rodgers that he wanted to send DVDs of the performance to the families of all the Challenger astronauts. Scobee Rodgers told him the Cosmosphere would be a good resource to help distribute those.

More than 350 students participated in the video conference Friday.