Twenty years ago, on Feb. On January 1, 2003, seven astronauts were just minutes away from returning to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (KSC) when they lost the Space Shuttle Columbia. Like the 19 other astronauts who died before them and followed them, the crew of STS-107 sacrificed themselves in their pursuit of research and the improvement of space flight.
On Thursday (January 26), NASA leaders, elected officials, and members of the Astronaut Memorial Foundation held a NASA Memorial Day ceremony at the Kennedy Space Mirror Memorial. (will open in a new tab) in Florida to honor the fallen and the Colombian Seven in particular.
“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of the Columbia crew during STS-107 re-entry. To some it seems like a lifetime. Some people think it was only yesterday. But for our agency, it is time that lives here in the present, shaping our culture and shaping our decisions, and helping us move forward,” said KSC Director Janet Petro. “As more and more people who were in our workforce on that day of tragedy 20 years ago are retiring, it is imperative that our culture and our decision-making processes remain focused on the lessons we are learning from Columbia, Challenger and Apollo. -1. “
“Even when we look to the future, we do so by looking back at the past, reminding ourselves of these lessons and the price they paid,” Petro said.
On the subject: Columbia Shuttle Disaster: What Happened and What NASA Learned
The Space Mirror memorial, opened in 1991, contains the names of all the dead astronauts. (will open in a new tab) to cut through the surface of the monument’s polished black granite 42.5 feet high and 50 feet wide (13 by 15 meters) so that light can pass through it from behind. The names of the STS-107 crew members – Commander Rick Husband, Pilot William McCool, Mission Specialists Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kapal Chawla and Laurel Clark, and the first Israeli to fly into space, Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon – are listed on the memorial above. and between the names of the astronauts who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. (will open in a new tab) and the Apollo 1 fire on the launch pad in 1967.
The names of nine other astronauts who died during training, mostly in aviation accidents, are located next to the names of the three crew members who died.
“Why do we do this every year? Why we have NASA Memorial Day (will open in a new tab)? said Bob Cabana, NASA assistant administrator and former astronaut. “Obviously this is to honor our fallen comrades on the mirror, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in our quest to explore. But more importantly, we do not forget the hard lessons learned from Apollo, Challenger and Columbia. (will open in a new tab).”
“It is very important that they learn these lessons so that they do not repeat themselves,” he said. “Why should we keep repeating the same hard lessons as this variance normalization — that you can have something wrong, but as long as nothing bad happens, everything is fine. This is not true”.
(Image credit: NASA TV)
In each of the post-tragedy investigations, NASA was found to have deviated from its own established flight rules, resulting in loss of life. For Columbia, the agency decided to continue flying after learning that the insulating foam was separating from the vehicle’s external fuel tank, risking damage to the orbiter’s sensitive heat shield on impact.
“I never want to go through another Columbia,” Cabana said.
Before concluding the ceremony, Cabana, Petro and Cheryl Chaffee, Chair of the Astronaut Memorial Foundation (will open in a new tab) and the daughter of Apollo 1 astronaut Roger Chaffee laid a wreath at the base of the space mirror. Then all three, joined by other participants, observed a minute of silence.
NASA also marked Remembrance Day and the 20th anniversary of the STS-107 tragedy at other ceremonies around the country.
At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, a flyby of a T-38 jet completed a commemoration held at the center’s Astronaut Memorial Grove, where trees were planted in memory of every NASA astronaut who died. Similar wreath and flag-laying ceremonies were held at the Langley Research Center in Virginia, the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, and the Stennis Space Flight Center in Mississippi.
Staff at the Ames Research Center in California observed a moment of silence while the Glenn Research Center scheduled a security panel with experts in aeronautics and spaceflight.
On the subject: Space travel: danger at every stage (infographic)
(Image credit: NASA TV)
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who participated in the last flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger that preceded the Challenger tragedy, was scheduled to lead the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where memorials to the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia crews stand. . (will open in a new tab).
“NASA Memorial Day is to pause, remember and exalt the legacy of the NASA family who gave their lives to advance the cause of discovery,” Nelson said in a statement. “While it will always be a day of celebration, it is also a day of gratitude. We are grateful that NASA adventurers shared their lives with us and made life on Earth a better place.”
“As we continue to empower humanity in this new era of exploration, we must always embrace NASA’s core security value,” he said.
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