Reaching For The Stars: At The Challenger Learning Center

Challenger Learning Center Commanders: Back row (L to R): Carrie Samuelson, Steve Jackson, Chuck Bauer, Butch MacQueen, Doug Bushnell, Sharon Bushnell, Jim Keough, Fred Welch. Sitting (L to R): Carmen Soplop, Val Kane, Chris Norton. Photo Caption

Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut
Board of Directors, MMMAA

On Wednesday, June 19, the Martz-Kohl Observatory in Frewsburg will host Dr. Marie Plumb as the special guest speaker at 7:30 p.m. Dr. Plum’s presentation, “Reaching for the Stars,” will draw from her experiences at The Challenger Learning Center.

On January 28, 1986, the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51-L “Teacher in Space”) mission, most notably with crew member/teacher Christa McAuliffe on board, launched to explore, discover, and teach students about space and space flight.

To the nation’s shock and sorrow, their Space Shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff.

In spite of, and maybe because of the tragedy, the crew’s families committed to carrying on the spirit of their loved ones by continuing the Challenger crew’s educational mission. In April 1986, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education was established.

Dr. Plumb now serves on the board of directors at the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center of the Twin Tier Region, Inc., in Allegany NY. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees at St. Bonaventure, Notre Dame, and UB, then began a 40-year career at Jamestown Community College teaching physics and astronomy. “I loved teaching,” she said, “it’s been the most rewarding experience of my life.”

She carries on that commitment at the Challenger Center where “children, teachers and citizens alike can touch the future by manipulating equipment, conducting experiments, solving problems, and working together—immersing themselves in space-like surroundings. The goal is to spark youth interest and joy in science and engineering, a spark that could change lives.”

Dr. Plumb is an exciting and engaging speaker who enjoys working with students and appreciates parents who encourage them to reach for the stars.

The public is invited to Martz-Kohl Observatory at 7:30 p.m. on June 19 to hear Dr. Plumb. Q&A sessions with speakers at Martz-Kohl are always a lively highlight after every presentation. Come and learn about simulated missions to Mars, a rendezvous with Comet Halley, the S.P.A.C.E. Academy, and more. Afterward, enjoy a fascinating tour of the observatory, and weather permitting, a little deep space exploration of your own through the observatory’s telescopes.

No admission fee is ever charged at Martz-Kohl, an all-volunteer, non-profit public observatory. A donation of $5 per adult and $3 for children and students is appreciated. Learn more at

For a deeper look at the night sky, planets, stars and the entire universe, visit the Martz/Kohl Observatory online at, check the schedule of events and visit in person. Thank you to Hall and Laury Opticians for sponsoring these Martz/Kohl columns.