President Obama, NASA Honor the Nation’s Fallen Astronauts
President Obama joined with NASA on Thursday to honor the aspirations and sacrifice of the 17 astronauts who perished aboard the shuttles Columbia and Challenger and in the Apollo 1 fire as they pushed the boundaries of exploration for the United States of America and the citizens of all nations.
NASA’s Day of Remembrance is marked on the final Thursday of each January.
The American flag at NASA installations across the country are lowered to half staff. Employees stop their activities to observe a moment of silence.
“It is important to remember that pushing the boundaries of space requires great courage and has come with a steep price three times in our Nation’s history for the crews of Apollo 1 and the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia” said President Obama. “The loss of these pioneers is felt every day by their family, friends, and colleagues, but we take comfort in the knowledge that their spirit will continue to inspire us to new heights.”
At the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D. C., NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former shuttle astronaut and retired Marine Corps general, led a wreath laying ceremony in tribute to the fallen astronauts and others who have given their lives to advance the space frontier.
Columbia disintegrated overEast Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, as the spacecraft descended to Earth after a 16-day mission. Columbia’s lost crew included Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Illan Ramon, of Israel.
Challenger shattered moments after lifting off on Jan. 28, 1986, from the Kennedy Space Center inFlorida. Those who lost their lives included Francis “Dick” Scobee, Mike Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Ron McNair, Greg Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe.
The Apollo 1 capsule was consumed by fire during a pre-launch countdown test at theKennedy Space Center on Jan. 27, 1967. Gus Grisson perished with Ed White and Roger Chaffee.
“In the face our greatest accomplishments, it’s easy to loose site of the fact that each time men and women board a spacecraft their actions carry great risk along with the opportunity for great discovery and the opportunity to push the envelope of human achievement,” said Bolden.
In the aftermath of each tragedy, NASA recovered. Human spaceflight resumed.