Roger That!

February 15 – 17 please join the GRPM and Grand Valley State University for a weekend commemorating the Apollo 1 tragedy.

On January 27, 1967, tragedy struck NASA’s Apollo program when a flash fire occurred in command module 012 during a launch pad test of the Apollo/Saturn space vehicle being prepared for the first piloted flight, the AS-204 mission. Three astronauts, Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, a veteran of Mercury and Gemini missions; Lt. Col. Edward H. White, the astronaut who had performed the first United States extravehicular activity during the Gemini program; and Grand Rapids Native Roger B. Chaffee, an astronaut preparing for his first space flight, died in this tragic accident.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum renamed its planetarium to the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium the same year.

A “Roger That!” photo exhibition will be on display from January 9 through March 31 at the West Wall Gallery in GVSU’s Eberhard Center. The exhibition, produced by the GVSU Art Gallery in conjunction with the Chaffee family and the Grand Rapids Public Museum, will display images depicting the life of Roger B. Chaffee.

In addition, samples of actual lunar material returned by the Apollo astronauts who walked on the surface of the moon will also be displayed along with various types of meteorites. This material is on loan from NASA and will be available for viewing during the two-day Roger That! Event. Please consult the Roger That! Schedule for viewing times.


A free conference, “Roger That! A Celebration of Space Exploration in Honor of Roger B. Chaffee,” will take place February 10 at Eberhard Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Roger B. Chaffee was an astronaut and Grand Rapids native who died during testing on Apollo I in 1967.

The symposium is open to the public with required registration. To register, please visit and submit no later than February 3.

Academic and Public Conference

Location: GVSU Eberhard Center

  • Space and Science presentations will cover space-related topics in the fields of physics, engineering, geology, biology, and mathematics.
  • Space and Society presentations will cover such topics as; the psychology of astronaut team-building, the history of space exploration, space travel and religion, archaeoastronomy, and the economic costs and benefits of space travel.
  • Space and the Arts presentations will take a multimedia approach in discussing the relationship between space exploration and popular culture, focusing on art, science fiction, literature, and film.
  • Student Design Challenge presentations will allow local students in the 6th-12th grades to show off their innovative solutions to a number of challenges involving space exploration. Solutions will be presented and displayed in the Eberhard Center on Friday, February 10th and winners will be announced at the Grand Rapids Public Museum on Saturday, February 11th.
  • Brother Guy Consolmagno will be the keynote speaker for the conference. The Detroit native is director of the Vatican Observatory in Italy, one of the oldest astronomical institutions in the world. His presentation, “Why Do We Look Up at the Heavens,” will take place February 10 at 12:30 p.m. The conference will include breakout sessions featuring a variety of science, art and society topics related to astronomy.

School Field Trips at the GRPM

Local students will have an opportunity to learn about space exploration through a series of programs at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, including hands-on activities and a presentation at the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium.


Museum Celebration

The GRPM will continue the celebration of space exploration and the life of Roger B. Chaffee through exciting and educational exhibitions and activities taking place throughout the day. As part of this celebration, all planetarium shows on February 17 will be $2 off!

10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

  • View real stellar and lunar material from NASA’s travelling education collection
  • Learn from student-submitted projects designing solutions for the future of space exploration
  • Watch a planetarium show including an introductory history of Roger B. Chaffee and a feature presentation highlighting the prospect of human’s future trips to the Moon
  • Enjoy three separate hands-on STEM themed activities provided by the GVSU Padnos College of Engineering
  • Try a quickfire design challenge to collaboratively prototype a solution to a problem
  • Witness robotics demonstrations by the Michigan State University Extension
  • See Museum artifacts related to space, space travel and Roger B. Chaffee
  • “Make and Take” solar system bracelet

12:30 p.m.

  • Announcement of the Roger That! Student design challenge winners.