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January 28, 2011
NASA Returns to Hemphill, Texas for New Columbia Museum Opening

HOUSTON – Two events, including the opening of a new space-themed museum, to honor the space shuttle Columbia and her crew are planned in Hemphill, Texas on Tuesday, Feb. 1. Both events are open to the media and public.

At 7:45 a.m. CST the Sabine County Columbia Memorial Committee and the J.R. Huffman Public Library will host the eighth annual memorial for the STS-107 space shuttle mission at the First Baptist Church in Hemphill at 301 Highway 87 South.

NASA speakers at the event include Gerry Schumann, of NASA Headquarters in Washington, and Debbie Awtonomow, of Kennedy Space Center, Fla. They were NASA leaders on-location in Hemphill during the Columbia recovery process.

At 11 a.m., a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Patricia Huffman Smith Museum, "Remember Columbia," will be held. The museum is located at 375 Sabine Street. The 3,400-square-foot museum houses the story of space exploration, space related artifacts, a digital learning center and informational items about NASA's space program.

Johnson Space Center Director Michael L. Coats is scheduled to speak at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Following the ceremony, there will be a photo opportunity at the library as NASA representatives provide a set of space shuttle-themed bookmarks that have been created to share NASA information with the public. In addition to the J.R. Huffman Public Library, more than 920 libraries in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico will receive the bookmarks.

For more information about attending the events, contact Marsha Cooper with the Sabine County Columbia Memorial Committee at 936-275-7949.

In February 2003, Hemphill and its vicinity were one of the key search areas for debris from the space shuttle Columbia. The community contributed greatly to assist NASA in accomplishing an unprecedented air, ground and water search. The community's dedication was instrumental in the recovery of more than 80,000 pieces of the puzzle that were reassembled at Kennedy and aided NASA in a successful return to flight.

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Kylie Clem
Johnson Space Center, Houston

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