Apollo 1 astronaut Roger B. Chaffee to be honored at symposium

GVL / Courtesy - NASA imagery 
Roger Chaffee (right), pictured, joins Commander Virgil “Gus” Grissom (left) and Senior Pilot Ed White (center). Photo Credit: NASA


GVL / Courtesy – NASA imagery Roger Chaffee (right), pictured, joins Commander Virgil “Gus” Grissom (left) and Senior Pilot Ed White (center). Photo Credit: NASA

Drew Schertzer

Grand Valley State University is partnering with the Grand Rapids Public Museum to honor the astronauts tragically killed in the Apollo 1 incident in 1967. Events are scheduled Friday, Feb. 10 and Saturday, Feb. 11 at the L. V. Eberhard Center as part of a 50th anniversary symposium titled “Roger That! A Celebration of Space Exploration in Honor of Roger B. Chaffee.”

The symposium will include a presentation titled “Why Do We Look Up to the Heavens?” from keynote speaker Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory Friday, Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m. His talk will be about space exploration but will also cover many other space-related topics.

Chaffee lived in Grand Rapids for many years and worked for NASA as an astronaut before he and two other astronauts passed away during a fire in the testing of Apollo 1 Jan. 27, 1967. Since then, his daughter, Sheryl Lynn Chaffee, has worked with NASA on many safety features.

“People need to be aware that somewhere, someone gave their life for space and be connected to (Chaffee’s) life,” said Deana Weibel, GVSU professor and co-organizer of the symposium.

Chaffee’s wife, Martha Horn Chaffee, will give a keynote dinner address with their daughter Friday, Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. for $35. They will discuss Chaffee’s life, describe what they’ve done since the incident and talk about their futures with the space program. Some of the money earned at the event will go toward the Roger B. Chaffee Scholarship Fund.

“This symposium is a resource for us to teach people about a local Grand Rapids hero that many folks don’t know about,” said Kate Moore, vice president of marketing and public relations for the GRPM.

In total, there will be 14 speakers at the Eberhard Center Friday, Feb. 10., starting their presentations from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and continuing at 2 p.m. There will also be a musical event, and each hour will offer different presentations, ranging from space science to space and arts, Weibel said.

“One of the goals is to bring home how many different disciplines can be involved in space,” Weibel said. “Many people may not realize that GVSU’s art and design departments—or their women, gender and sexuality studies—are related to space.”

While these events are going on, the GRPM will be hosting field trips for local students from sixth grade to 12th grade. Many activities are planned at the museum, as well, including a planetary show, Weibel said.

Students will have the opportunity to see the lunar material from NASA that travels around the U.S. Saturday, Feb. 11 at the GRPM. Also, Consolmagno will be delivering his second presentation, “Discarded Worlds: Astronomical Ideas That Were Almost Correct,” at 11 a.m. while many other space-related activities are going on.

Registration for the symposium is now open and the deadline is Friday, Feb. 3. To register or learn more, visit, gvsu.edu/rogerthat.