Yesterday, NASA honored the fallen astronauts of the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia missions with a day of remembrance. Every year toward the end of January, the foundation holds a ceremony to pay tribute to its fallen. This year, the ceremony took place at the Astronaut Memorial Foundations Center for Space Education at the Kennedy Space Center. During the ceremony, surviving friends and family laid a wreath at the Space Mirror memorial, and esteemed faculty delivered speeches regarding the former astronauts as well as the spirit of space travel.
January 27th was especially poignant to many as it marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire which claimed the lives of three promising astronauts as we raced to the moon. Keynote speaker Michael Collins, who orbited the moon on the same mission as Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, noted that safety precautions were put in place after the disaster. He also reminded us “that without the accident, it was likely NASA would not have landed on the Moon as the president had wished by the end of the decade.”
While we were able to eventually make it to the moon, there were two more disasters in NASA‘s history which were honored today. It was 31 years ago today that the Challenger was destroyed 73 seconds into flight, claiming the lives of seven more talented explorers. February 1st will also mark the 14th anniversary of the Columbia disaster, which took another seven astronauts from the world too soon.
Although a somber topic, it is always important to remember those who gave their lives in the line of scientific discovery. Robert Lightfoot, a NASA administrator, reminded the crowd of this fact by stating “We’ve chosen a tough business, an unforgiving business… but the reward for that is the pursuit of knowledge and the advancement for what we learn as human beings.” He continued by saying “These folks committed everything to that journey and we should learn from that and make sure we don’t repeat those mistakes going forward.”
Lightfoot closed his speech by gesturing the audience to the plaque that hangs in Launch Complex 34. It reads “Remember them not for how they died, but for those ideals which they lived.”
Via: Spaceflight Insider