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Volume 46 | Issue 1 | January 2004


photo: Crew of STS-107
Space shuttle crew of the STS-107.
NASA Photo /

NASA salutes fallen heroes

The fallen heroes of the Space Shuttle Columbia took their place on the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery in ceremonies Feb. 2 marking the first anniversary of the tragedy that claimed the lives of the seven STS-107 crewmembers.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe presided over the dedication ceremony, which was broadcast Agency-wide on NASA television.

In his remarks, O'Keefe called the Columbia crew "heroes for our time and for all times," adding that all had been "motivated by a fire within - a passionate eternal flame in each of their souls."

O'Keefe also repeated the call to create a "living memorial" to the crew by giving NASA a "new focus and vision to take humans back to the Moon and beyond."

The ceremony, attended by many members of the crewmembers' families, closed with stirring musical performances by the U.S. Navy Band, the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants choristers and by singer Patti LaBelle, who sang her Grammy-nominated song, "Way Up There." LaBelle originally performed the song at the Columbia memorial at the National Cathedral in Washington last year.

The new memorial is only a few feet away from another honoring the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, lost on January 28, 1986. Administrator O'Keefe laid a wreath at that site on the 18th anniversary of the accident.

It's a solemn, reflective time of year at NASA, with the anniversaries of the Columbia, Challenger and Apollo 1 tragedies falling within the same week. O'Keefe announced Jan. 29 that the Agency will observe a Day of Remembrance each year on the last Thursday in January to honor crews of those three missions and all who have given their lives in the cause of exploration and discovery.

O'Keefe told NASA employees that the Agency must learn from its tragedies "as profoundly as we do from our triumphs." He also urged employees to reflect "every single day" on the fact that "the consequences of us not getting it right are catastrophic."

The three crews also have been honored as part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars exploration project. The Spirit rover's landing site has been named Columbia Memorial Station, Opportunity's landing site has been named Challenger Memorial Station, and three hills visible from Spirit's site have been named for the Apollo 1 crew.