The 10th anniversary of the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia was commemorated by NASA and a number of other venues. On Feb 1, 2003, the Columbia broke up in the skies over Texas, killing her entire crew.
President Obama issues a statement honoring Columbia's crew
In a released statement, President Obama offered sentiments honoring the sacrifice of the crew of Columbia, according to Space.com: "Space exploration and the sacrifice these pioneers made benefits us all. Today, we honor their lives and recommit ourselves to living up to their shining example." Obama went on to suggest that current and future efforts of space exploration would serve to honor the fallen Columbia's crew.
NASA holds memorial service
Space.com also reported that NASA held a memorial service for the Columbia crew, as well as for the crews of the Challenger space shuttle and of Apollo 1, at Arlington National Cemetery. The Challenger was destroyed shortly after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986. The crew of Apollo 1 perished in a fire during a ground test of the Apollo space capsule on Jan. 27, 1967. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden laid wreaths and later made some remarks: "And while those gestures will signify to the nation and the world that we have not forgotten, as we look to the future, we will each remember in our own personal way our colleagues and friends, and what their work meant to us. Together we will carry them with us in our hearts as we propel ourselves to the next big horizon and make their dreams reality." The Associated Press notes that there was a similar ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Texas towns where Columbia fell hold commemorations
A number of towns in Texas, including Hemphill, 170 miles north of Houston, held memorials, according to CNN. A NASA press release notes that Johnson Space Flight Center Director Ellen Ochoa, astronauts and other NASA employees joined a service that took place Jan. 3 at the Family Life Center, First Baptist Church in Hemphill. Pieces of the Columbia fell in a wide area across Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana after the space shuttle broke up. Residents remember forming ad-hoc search parties to find and retrieve pieces of the space shuttle. The recovered pieces now are stored on a floor of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center where they are being studied to this day by engineers.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.