Roger That! Conference will explore life in space, feature keynote from pioneering astronaut and physician

A person in an astronaut uniform smiles for the camera.
Dr. Robert Satcher will deliver the keynote.

Life in space is the theme for this year's Roger That! Conference, where attendees can hear from a former NASA astronaut who was also the first orthopedic surgeon in space.

Dr. Robert Satcher will deliver the keynote, speaking both days of the event, February 16 and 17. Satcher, who is also a chemical engineer, flew aboard STS-129 in 2009 on a mission to the International Space Station. During this mission, Satcher performed two spacewalks, contributing to the maintenance and assembly of the station.

Programming from the conference, in its eighth year, will take a broad look at life, including microbes, plants, animals, extraterrestrial life and homo sapiens. Experts will also explore what it's like to be a human in space.

A person in an astronaut uniform smiles while posing for the camera.
The annual conference honors the life of Grand Rapids native Roger B. Chaffee.

The annual conference, a joint venture between Grand Valley and the Grand Rapids Public Museum, celebrates space exploration and the life of Grand Rapids native Roger B. Chaffee. Chaffee, along with Gus Grissom and Ed White, died in 1967 during an Apollo I pre-flight test when a fire broke out in the cockpit of their command module.

The slate of events includes an academic and public conference at GVSU, STEAM and STEM K-12 school programming from both partner organizations, and a public celebration at the GRPM.

"Roger That! 2024 is a rare opportunity to connect to experts who are making human lives in space better and finding new places where humans could potentially live," said Deana Weibel, professor of anthropology and Roger That! co-organizer. "What do humans need to be able to live in space? How do we deal with the challenges astronauts face? This year's event allows students and community members to connect to those on the forefront of space medicine, biology, engineering and more who are uncovering the secrets of life in the universe."

There will be two opportunities to hear Satcher present his speech. Satcher will speak at 6:30 p.m. February 16 at the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. The lecture is free through registration at the Roger That! website.

 Satcher will also speak at 11 a.m. Saturday, February 17th at the GRPM. Tickets for this lecture are available free of charge at the GRPM website. Advance ticketing is strongly recommended as the lecture is expected to reach capacity quickly.

GVSU's free academic conference on February 16, open to educators and the general public, will present a wide array of speakers and learning opportunities.

Here are some highlights:

  • A slate of speakers covering a wide range of topics. Presenters include GVSU faculty members Mark Staves, professor of cell and molecular biology and Tim Evans, professor of biology.
  • Two workshops by faculty members, covering topics such as the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8.
  • A hybrid Design That! Challenge, which allows students to produce projects reflecting space-related topics, is open to students in grades 4-8.


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