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Education

Space, That Final Frontier, Has Set Down in San Antonio

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Joey Palacios
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Scobee Education Center

We’re going into outer space for a moment. Well, it’s really San Antonio College, but it isn’t a bad deal — far from it. Two years ago, renovation began on the 50-year-old Scobee Planetarium, named for Dick Scobee, who died in the 1986 Challenger Disaster. In these two years, the simple domed planetarium has become a 22,000 square foot center for mock space exploration and stargazing.

What you’re hearing is the beginning of that expedition. Rick Varner is the Director of the Center. “The Scobee Education Center is wrapped around the foundation that was the Scobee Planetarium, and now we’ll have exhibits from Southwest Research Institute, we’ll have the whole Challenger Learning Center experience,” said Varner.

Inside the Challenger Learning Center, which used to be housed at Brooks City Base, students, ideally Grades 5-9, will go on simulated missions to the ISS to conduct their own experiments. Robert Piercey is vice president of education for all 40 Challenger Centers in the country. “So kids are now going up to the international space station and they have to build a satellite to re-launch it,” Piercey explained. “So kids are getting hands-on opportunities to work with space age materials.”

The Planetarium itself has been completely rebuilt, with a larger screen and redirected seating. A new third floor has been added, with a new telescope, and a retractable dome that opens to the night. The Scobee Education Center will open Friday, while planetarium will have its first show on Nov. 7.