Over the past weeks NASA employees, guests and family of the Columbia, Challenger and Apollo 1 crews have been honoring their loved ones at the Johnson Space Center’s Astronaut Memorial Grove as part of the agency’s Day of Remembrance.
During the commemoration, NASA featured a T-38 flyover shortly after remarks from Director Vanessa Wyche among others.
Family and guests placed roses on placards beneath trees planted in the grove in honor of the lives of those who were lost. NASA honors those they have lost every January, but this remembrance focused on the 20th anniversary of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia on Feb. 1.
“NASA’s Day of Remembrance is about pausing, remembering, and uplifting the legacies of the NASA family who gave their lives to advance the cause of discovery,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
Nelson said that while this will always be a solemn day, it is also one of gratitude.
“As we continue to expand humanity’s reach in this new era of exploration, we must always embrace NASA’s core value of safety,” he said.
Johnson Space Director Vanessa Wyche said the tragedies of the Columbia and Challenger shuttles along with the Apollo mission have shaped the way NASA functions today.
“The culture of excellence and safety that the agency models today has been developed through the hard lessons learned from these accidents,” Wyche said.
Seven astronauts died when Columbia disintegrated as it reentered the atmosphere over Texas in 2003. The NASA website states the STS-107 mission was 16 minutes from landing when Mission Control lost contact with the shuttle.
Evelyn Husband Thompson is the wife of Columbia commander Rick Husband. She spoke on behalf of Columbia family members.
“In the past twenty years, the Columbia families have had celebrations and sorrow, and life experiences,” she said. “One of us became a parent, and some of us are now grandparents.”
She said the crew’s legacy has extended far beyond their jobs at NASA through their family.