June Scobee Rodgers, Ph.D., has dedicated her life to turning unthinkable tragedy into selfless, far-reaching opportunity. Rodgers, the widow of late Challenger space shuttle commander Richard “Dick” Scobee, is the founding chair of the Challenger Center for Space Science and Education, which strives to foster and inspire future generations of space explorers. 

June has worked diligently to establish the Challenger Center as a worldwide contributive force to tomorrow’s space industry, with the center engaging countless students and teachers annually. These tireless efforts focus, in part, on boosting student knowledge within science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Additionally, June has been equally impactful as an accomplished author; her work includes the Star Challengers series, a collection of science-adventure books aimed at spurring student interest in space research and technology. In 2011, she also released Silver Linings, which serves as both an account of her life before and following the Challenger tragedy and a celebration of leadership and fortitude within the American space industry. 

In recognition of her work, June has earned several awards and honors, including, but not limited to, the National Eagle Award, the Women’s International Center’s Living Legacy Award, and the National Space Club Educator Award. 

I recently had the honor of receiving a Challenger 51-L mission patch from June and, subsequently, taking the patch with me to the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the the World’s oceans in the Mariana Trench (and the namesake of the lost spacecraft). It was profoundly moving to have this item on hand while navigating such remote depths, and it was even more rewarding to return the patch to June on the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. The patch will now enter the Challenger Center Museum, where it will live on as an emblem of the bravery, curiosity, and ambition that continue to propel our space industry forward.