Roger That! conference to celebrate women in space


GVL / Meghan Landgren

Grace Smith, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University, in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM), is hosting this year’s “Roger That!” conference from Friday, Feb. 18 to Saturday, Feb. 19. “Roger That!” will celebrate women in space, featuring talks with feminist icon and astronaut, Eileen Collins. 

Collins was the first woman to pilot a United States Spacecraft on the Discovery shuttle flight in 1995. 

In 1999, Collins made history for a second time as the commander of the Columbia, becoming the first woman to command a space shuttle mission. 

“I believe that space exploration is hugely inspirational to people of all ages, but in particular to young people,” Collins said. “It is my hope that the excitement of space will inspire our youngsters to study math, science, engineering and technology. The future of our country depends on the strong education of our diverse population.”

Throughout the conference Collins will speak about her journey with NASA as well as her path to becoming a leading figure in space exploration.

On Feb. 18 Collins will deliver a lecture titled “Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars” at GVSU’s Loosemore Auditorium on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus at 6:30 p.m. 

GVSU will be live streaming this event for community members and students who wish to attend virtually. 

Collins will also be delivering her lecture the following day, Feb. 19,  at the Grand Rapids Public Museum at 11:00 a.m. 

Tickets for both of these events are available for free through GVSU’s Roger That! Website or

The conference will also be chronicling the life of Grand Rapids native, Roger B. Chaffee, who died alongside Gus Grissom and Ed White during the Apollo 1 pre-test flight due to a fire in the cockpit. 

Collins will be speaking on Chaffee’s legacy in addition to her own journey, as she said he was an inspiration to many, including herself. 

“I wrote my book, “Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars,” to inform and inspire young people to consider careers in the military and in space,” Collins said. “In addition, Roger Chaffee was one of my heroes and I believe it is important for people to understand his life and his motivation in the choices he made.”

Another event in the conference will be the “Design That!” challenge for fourth through eighth grade students. 

Here, GRPM and GVSU are having students work in teams to solve issues surrounding humans, technology, communities and equal opportunities in space. 

The participants will have an opportunity to win prizes such as a class pizza party or museum pass bundles based on their presentation, originality and reflection on the issues they’re presenting. 

GRPM and GVSU will also have extra space related activities set up around the museum and the Pew Grand Rapids Campus for event attendees. 

At GRPM there will be planetarium showings highlighting the life and contributions of Roger B. Chaffee.

GVSU’s physics and engineering department will also have tables set up throughout the museum showcasing various fields of study available within the respective departments and related hands-on activities for participants to enjoy. 

For those unable to attend the “Roger That!” conference in person there will be recorded lectures from previous years available for viewing.