Friday, January 29, 2016

NASA Honors Fallen Astronauts on Day of Remembrance

NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman has a moment of silence during a wreath laying ceremony as part of NASA's Day of Remembrance on the 30th anniversary of the Challenger accident, Thursday, January 28, 2016, at Arlington National Cemetery. The wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Each year, Kennedy Space Center employees and guests join others throughout NASA to honor and celebrate the contributions of those astronauts who have perished in the conquest of space. The Day of Remembrance activities pay tribute to astronauts who acknowledged space is an unforgiving environment, but believed exploration is worth the risk.

This year's ceremony took place on Jan. 28 in the Space Shuttle Atlantis facility at Kennedy's visitor complex. The date marked the 30th anniversary of the loss of the shuttle Challenger and her crew.

Center Director Bob Cabana, a former space shuttle commander, emphasized that flight safety must remain paramount embracing the experiences from Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.

"We learned many lessons from the loss of Challenger," he said. "The vehicle that returned to flight two and a half years later may have looked the same, but it had hundreds of changes, making it safer and more reliable.

Cabana emphasized that those lessons must not be forgotten.

"This is even more critical today as we embark on a new era of human spaceflight developing commercial vehicles that will take us to the International Space Station and the Orion spacecraft that will, one day, take us to Mars," he said.

The ceremony included musical selections performed by the Voices of Liberty, a 10-member choir from Walt Disney World in Orlando, and Brandon Heath, a contemporary Christian musician from Nashville, Tennessee.

The STS-51L crew of Challenger included the first Teacher-in-Space participant, Christa McAuliffe, a Concord, New Hampshire, high school instructor. Also on board were Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judy Resnik, Ellison Onizuka and Ron McNair, along with payload specialist Greg Jarvis, an engineer with the Hughes Aircraft Company. After lifting off on Jan. 28, 1986, the crew perished when the vehicle exploded 73 seconds into the flight.

McAuliffe was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to participate in the agency's Teacher-in-Space Project. Her backup was Idaho teacher Barbara Morgan who went on to be selected by NASA as a mission specialist in January 1998.

"From Christa McAuliffe, I learned to look for the best in all situations and all people," she said. "Before the Challenger launch, Christa had much to do. Up to the last day (before launch), she made time in crew quarters here at Kennedy to write college recommendations for some of her students."

Former astronaut Barbara Morgan remembers the STS-51L crew of the space shuttle Challenger. Morgan served as backup to Teacher in Space participant Christa McAuliffe. Morgan went on to serve as a mission specialist on STS-118 in 2007. Also on the stage, form the left, are Kathie Scobee Flugham, daughter of STS-51L commander Dick Scobee, Evelyn Husband-Thompson, widow of STS-107 commander Rick Husband, former astronaut Eileen Collins, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and former astronaut Jon McBride. Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Former astronaut Barbara Morgan remembers the STS-51L crew of the space shuttle Challenger. Morgan served as backup to Teacher in Space participant Christa McAuliffe. Morgan went on to serve as a mission specialist on STS-118 in 2007. Also on the stage, form the left, are Kathie Scobee Flugham, daughter of STS-51L commander Dick Scobee, Evelyn Husband-Thompson, widow of STS-107 commander Rick Husband, former astronaut Eileen Collins, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana and former astronaut Jon McBride. Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

In August 2007, Morgan flew on STS-118, an International Space Station assembly flight. During the mission, Morgan participated in 20-minute amateur radio question-and-answer sessions with young people at the Discovery Center of Idaho and other locations. She also joined fellow mission specialist Alvin Drew in an education event for young people at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria, Virginia. The event was hosted by June Scobee Rodgers, Ph. D., widow of Dick Scobee.

Reflecting on what she learned from the Challenger crew, Morgan pointed to the true meaning of their willingness to accept risk.

"Courage is contagious," she said. "Courage is shared. Courage is much more than bravery and boldness. Because courage lives in the heart. Once you weigh the risk and once you decide exploration and discovery are worth the risk, then you can dream, you can plan and you can build."

Also participating in the ceremony were state Sen. Thad Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF), and former shuttle astronaut Jon McBride, chairman of the AMF board of directors.

The AMF, a private, not-for-profit organization, funded and maintains the Space Mirror Memorial. The names of the fallen astronauts from Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia, as well as the astronauts who perished in training and commercial airplane accidents are emblazoned on the monument's 45-foot-high-by-50-foot-wide polished black granite surface. It was dedicated in 1991 and since has been designated a National Memorial by Congress.

On Jan. 27, 1967, the Apollo 1 crew was aboard their spacecraft at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station's Launch Pad 34 for a preflight test. Astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives when a fire swept through the command module.

The STS-107 crew of the shuttle Columbia, Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Israeli Space Agency astronaut Ilan Ramon, were lost when the shuttle broke apart during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003.

Mike Adams, the first in-flight fatality of the space program, died as he piloted an X-15 rocket plane on Nov. 15, 1967. Robert Lawrence, Theodore Freeman, Elliott See, Charles Bassett, and Clifton Williams were lost in training accidents. Manley "Sonny" Carter died in a commercial aircraft crash while on NASA business.

Following the ceremony, a wreath was placed at the Space Mirror Memorial by Alison Smith Balch, daughter of Michael Smith; Sheryl Chaffee, daughter of Roger Chaffee; Scott McAuliffe, son of Christa McAuliffe; Kathie Scobee Flugham, daughter of Dick Scobee, and her brother, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen Richard Scobee.

Cabana noted that the fallen astronauts will be forever remembered.

"Their legacy is the Challenger Center, an inspiration that motivates our children to learn and aspire to careers in science, technology, engineering and math," he said. "It showed us that exploration is not without risk, yet we can learn from our mistakes and be better for them in the end. They continue to motivate us to explore and to never quit."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, and other agency senior officials held an observance and wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia starting at 11 a.m. EST on Thursday. Various NASA centers also hold remembrance events Thursday for employees and the families of those lost in service to America’s space program.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, observed the day with a candle-lighting ceremony for center employees, as well as a public event at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Marshall's official visitor center, at 10 a.m. CST. NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, held an event for employees that included placing flowers at the Apollo, Challenger and Columbia Trees at the center.

Credit: NASA

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