Blogs  |  8.7.2015

Six New Individuals Elected to Challenger Center Board of Directors

Special Board Seat Created for Apollo 1 Family Representative

The board of directors of Challenger Center today announced the election of several new members and the creation of a new board seat reserved for an Apollo 1 representative. New board members include: Lowell Grissom, brother of Apollo 1 Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Robert Curbeam, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems; Leslee Gilbert, Van Scoyoc Associates; Captain Mark Kelly, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut; Kathie Klein, Buehler Challenger & Science Center; and Carol Vorderman MBE, British TV host, Group Captain RAFVR(T) as Ambassador-Air Cadets and Education Author.

“We are very pleased to expand our board with this diverse group of leaders, each bringing unique skillsets to the team,” said Gwen Griffin, chair of Challenger Center’s board of directors. “As we continue to look to the future, it is very special to have a board member joining us who represents the Apollo 1 families. Together, with our Columbia representative and the Challenger families, we continue to build on the legacy of these heroes.”

The new members will be formally recognized at Challenger Center’s annual board meeting in conjunction with the organization’s conference taking place in San Antonio, TX from August 9-13.

“This new class of board members bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the organization,” said Lance Bush, president and CEO, Challenger Center. “Each individual has displayed great leadership and success in their respective industries and I look forward to working with them as we continue our efforts to excite students about STEM.”

The new board members join the leading STEM education organization during another year of positive growth. By the end of 2015, Challenger Center will have opened four new Challenger Learning Centers in just two years and will prepare to recognize its 30th anniversary in 2016.

Robert Curbeam is vice president and deputy, supporting the vice president of Space Systems, a mission area within Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. As a leader in the Space Systems organization, he heads the Trident and VIIRS program areas and provides oversight, as needed, for other Space Systems programs at SAS. Before joining Raytheon, he was president of the Aerospace and Defense Division for ARES Corporation. Prior to ARES, Mr. Curbeam was an astronaut with NASA where he held a wide range of positions and served on three space shuttle missions and seven spacewalks.

Leslee Gilbert is a vice president with Van Scoyoc Associates (VSA), a full service, independent federal government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Ms. Gilbert works with academic institutions, tech companies, and organizations interested in research, development, and competitiveness. Before joining VSA, she was the Staff Director and Counsel of the House of Representatives’ Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Ms. Gilbert played a central role in critical Federal science, technology, and space policy, while working closely on legislation including the NASA Reauthorization Acts of 2008 and 2010 and the America COMPETES Reauthorization Acts of 2007 and 2010.

Lowell Grissom, brother of Astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom has spoken nationally about his brother and the space program. Mr. Grissom was President of Professional Event Planners, Inc., from 1987 to 2010, and selected as a member of the U.S. Registry’s WHO’s WHO of leading American Executives. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Astronaut Memorial Foundation and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Apollo 1 Memorial Foundation. Mr. Grissom appeared in the Discovery Channel Documentaries, “WHEN WE LEFT EARTH: The NASA Missions” and “Liberty Bell 7, The Lost Spacecraft,” and Purdue University’s series, “The Boilermakers.”

Captain Mark E. Kelly is a Navy combat veteran, retired NASA astronaut, and New York Times best-selling author. Captain Kelly was selected as an astronaut in 1996 and flew his first mission in 2001 aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, the same space shuttle that he commanded on its final flight in May 2011. Captain Kelly has spent more than 50 days in space and is one of only four individuals who has visited the International Space Station on four different occasions. Captain Kelly’s identical twin brother, Scott Kelly, is also a NASA astronaut and is currently serving a year-long mission aboard the International Space Station.

Kathie Klein is the Center Director for the Buehler Challenger & Science Center (BCSC) in Paramus, N.J. The BCSC is a free standing, dual simulator Challenger Learning Center that services more 25,000 students yearly, reaching students from pre-school through high school with a diverse curriculum both in scope and content. Prior to working at the Challenger Learning Center, Ms. Klein taught in the classroom, concentrating in math and science. Klein now serves in one of two board seats reserved for Challenger Learning Center representatives.

Carol Vorderman MBE has been a network TV presenter since 1982, and has since appeared on more TV shows than any other female TV presenter in the UK. With a Cambridge University degree in Engineering, her STEM interest led to the production of educational videos and books. As a result Vorderman is now the UK’S number one best-selling children’s education author of all time, with an online school In 2013 Carol fulfilled a lifelong ambition by learning to fly and is now the first woman RAF honorary Group Captain as Ambassador for Air Cadets (50,000 young people). In 2016, she plans to become the ninth woman ever to fly solo round the world.

To see a complete list of the Challenger Center board of directors please visit

About Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center)
As a leader in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, Challenger Center and its international network of Challenger Learning Centers use space simulations to engage students in dynamic, hands-on opportunities. These experiences strengthen knowledge in STEM subjects and inspire students to pursue careers in these important fields. Centers reach hundreds of thousands of students and tens of thousands of teachers each year. Founded in 1986, Challenger Center was created to honor the crew of shuttle flight STS-51-L: Dick Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith. Learn more about Challenger Center at and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.