Forty years ago, an astronomy-mad teenager named McDonald Homer stopped by the Newark Museum’s planetarium. “I just walked in and said, ‘I’ll sweep up. I’ll do anything if you give me a chance to hang around,’” says Homer CC’82.

The planetarium’s then-director, Gary Swangin, welcomed him in, inaugurating a friendship that has now left its mark half a world away. Last year, an American-funded portable planetarium designed to introduce Afghan children to space science was named after Swangin NCAS’67 at the suggestion of Homer, an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

While growing up in Newark, Homer was desperate to find others who shared his passions. Swangin and his planetarium colleagues were “the science family I always wanted,” Homer says. Over the decades, as Homer worked in international agricultural development and Swangin pursued science-related careers in everything from consulting to broadcasting to teaching, the two men kept in touch.

During a 2014–16 tour in Afghanistan, Homer helped the founder of the Afghanistan Astronomy Association apply for a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Embassy to fund astronomy teaching tools, including the planetarium, which inflates like a bounce house. Creating the Gary Swangin Planetarium, which has already reached 5,000 children, seemed a perfect way to honor Homer’s long-ago mentor.

“You never realize the impact you make on other people,” says Swangin, now a high school and college astronomy educator. “I’ve always wanted to do something good in astronomy, and as it turns out, I’ve probably made a lot of new stars—which turn out to be human beings.”