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Fallen Space Heroes Honored
June Scobee Rodgers, widow of space shuttle Challenger Commander Dick Scobee, expressed her husband's love of the Florida coast to about 150 people who gathered Jan. 28 for a remembrance service marking the 20th anniversary of the Challenger accident.

"This was Dick Scobee's favorite place to work," she said during the public ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

"He loved coming to Kennedy Space Center. He knew about risks and accepted them. I think the risks the astronauts take can be compared to the valor of the men and women who serve our country in the Middle East now, or during 9-11 when those firemen climbed those stairs, because without risks there is no discovery, there's no new knowledge and there's no new bold adventure, all of which help the human soul to soar."

Honorable speakers at the Space Mirror Memorial Image right: Speakers at the ceremony, including Kennedy Space Center Director, Jim Kennedy await their turn at the podium. Image credit: NASA/KSC

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation hosted the event. Family members of the Apollo 1 and Columbia crews and relatives of the fallen T-38 test pilots were also on hand as their loved ones were recognized for their sacrifice.

Rodgers shared that the commander was humble in describing his profession. "Dick always said he was just a pioneer in a long succession of trailblazers and explorers traveling across the Atlantic as sailors, or as trailblazers traveling across the frontier in covered wagons. The greatest risk is to take no risk."

She also discussed the Challenger crew's multi-faceted legacy. A total of at least 85 schools, museums, planetariums, airports and other facilities are named after the Challenger and McAuliffe, Smith, Jarvis, Onizuka, Resnik, McNair and Scobee.

Following his mother, U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Scobee explained the impact his dad had on him and the world. "This anniversary, to me, is more than being 20 years since the Challenger accident," Scobee said. "This is not the time I remember back to what my father and crew did. I think about that every day, especially in my line of work. It is more of a celebration than anything else. It is great to see the work and dedication that is still going on at NASA to continue the mission."

Scobee, a combat pilot, is often asked about following in his father's footsteps. He said he doesn't see it this way, because they were totally different kinds of pilots. "I would call it more of a parallel path," he said. "I followed along beside his footsteps. But I do enjoy those parallels and I enjoy talking to his friends. Our family loves to hear the stories of what it was like working with him when he was an astronaut and when he was a young man, as well."

Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy told the audience how much the work force cares for the families who lost loved ones in the pursuit of exploration. "As I stand before you, it is as one person representing 15,000 men and women at the Kennedy Space Center," Kennedy said. "When June (Scobee Rodgers) commented that the crew of Challenger loved Kennedy Space Center, I want you to know that all 15,000 of us loved the crew of Challenger, the crew of Columbia and the crew of Apollo 1. God bless you."

Wreath is placed at the Space Mirror Memorial Image left: A wreath was placed in front of the Space Memorial Mirror by June Scobee Rodgers, and William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations at NASA. Image credit: NASA/KSC

Kennedy also told the audience they are a part of the NASA family. "When we experience the tragic losses that we have referred to today, it hurts down deep in our souls," Kennedy said. "But knowing that we are in this together, with friends and family, it makes the highs that much sweeter and the lows bearable. Today, on the 20th anniversary of the Challenger accident, I say God's blessings from us to you."

Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations, said the crew members understood their calling. He added that a person walking into any NASA facility will see men and women who are proud of their work and are dedicated to that mission.

"We are not here for fame or money; we are here because we believe in what we do," Gerstenmaier said. "The Challenger crew lived that higher calling. All of us here, along with many others from across the United States and even around the world, are part of the NASA family. We are a community in success, and in sorrow we pull together. This community understands there is great value in learning and in reaching for the stars."

Other speakers at the ceremony included Dr. Stephen Feldman, president of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation; William Potter, chairman of the board of directors for the foundation; Rick Hauck, commander of the first space shuttle mission after Challenger; and Dr. Joe Allen, chairman of the board for the Challenger Centers for Space Science.

Jeff Stuckey
NASA's Kennedy Space Center