Kennedy Space Center Honors Fallen Astronaut Heroes
On Feb. 1 of last year, Kennedy Space Center and the surrounding Central Florida community -- along with the rest of the nation -- were stunned by the loss of seven astronaut heroes and Space Shuttle Columbia.
To mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy and bring a sense of closure, KSC hosted several memorial events.
This closeup image shows the words of the plaque displayed in the Columbia room of the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC.
Debris from Columbia has been painstakingly preserved in a room on the 16th floor of KSC's massive Vehicle Assembly Building. A commemorative plaque was unveiled on Jan. 29 at a private dedication ceremony for KSC's 40-member Columbia Preservation Team.
"As we were going through this tragedy, we knew we had to take it and make something out of it and learn from it," Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach said of the preservation effort. "Hopefully, we'll be able to design better spacecraft and flight crew systems of the future."
The dedication of the "Columbia room" inside the VAB took place on the first NASA Remembrance Day. Starting this year, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe designated the last Thursday in January as a time for the NASA family to remember those who gave their lives in the pursuit of exploration.
"On Monday, there's going to be a dedication ceremony at Arlington to honor the STS-107 crew," said NASA astronaut Pamela Melroy, who attended the dedication of the Columbia room. "As I was thinking about it, I realized that this facility here is Columbia's Arlington. We have a very special place; it's where we come to reflect. Yes, to grieve, but also to be inspired. If you've ever been to Arlington, it's a very inspiring place, to see all the people who dedicated their lives and sacrificed everything for the sake of our country. And it's the same thing here: the thousands of lives that went into building Columbia, maintaining her, launching her, and flying her."
At a public ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial on Feb. 1, KSC Director James Kennedy and Deputy Director Woodrow Whitlow were joined by Florida Space Authority Executive Director Winston Scott and Astronauts Memorial Foundation Executive Director Stephen Feldman. Located at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the polished-granite mirror honors all NASA astronauts who died in the line of duty.
Kennedy and Whitlow together placed a wreath in front of the mirror. Guests at the ceremony then placed flowers in the fence surrounding the memorial.
Astronauts Memorial Foundation Executive Director Stephen Feldman, Florida Space Authority Executive Director Winston Scott, KSC Deputy Director Woodrow Whitlow and KSC Director James Kennedy attended the ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial.
The ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial was followed by a special tribute from high school students, staff and members of the Shoshone-Bannock Native American community in Fort Hall, Idaho. Astronaut John Herrington, the first member of a federally recognized Native American tribe, attended the healing ceremony.
One of the Student Experiment Module projects that flew on STS-107 was built by students from Shoshone-Bannock High School.
"They were our friends; they are our heroes," Kennedy said to a crowd of about 150 people gathered under a gloomy sky in front of the mirror. "Their loss will not be in vain. We will come back bigger, better and stronger than ever before. And their beloved families will never be forgotten."
+ Columbia Memorial Dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery
NASA's Kennedy Space Center