Five years ago, family members of the STS-107 space shuttle crew were waiting at the Kennedy Space Center to hear the double sonic boom that would announce the arrival of the Columbia shuttle returning home from its mission to space. But the sonic booms never came; there was only silence. Today, at the Space Mirror Memorial at the NASA Kennedy Space Center, NASA officials, astronauts and families of the Columbia crew paid tribute to all astronauts who have lost their lives, and called for NASA to continue to learn from the tragedies.
Evelyn Husband Thompson, wife of STS-107 commander Rick Husband said that each of the families are recalling what they went through five years ago in public or private ways. Families of Ilan Ramon and Willie McCool are in Israel for a memorial service there, while the families of Dave Brown, Laurel Clark, Mike Anderson and Kalpana Chawla are privately remembering the accident.
The astronauts were returning home from a successful flight when the shuttle broke up on re-entry.
Husband-Thompson, who remarried just three weeks ago said, “Life does go on, and even though we never know what life is going to bring us, there is hope for tomorrow.”
Eileen Collins, who commanded the STS-114 return to flight mission two years after the Columbia accident said that, personally, this was a difficult day for her, and that it was hard to describe the experiences of the past five years.
“I can’t properly put it into words, but our purpose here today is to honor and respect, remember and learn,” she said. Collins said that she has changed because of the accident, and now realizes that spaceflight is even more difficult and hazardous than she originally believed.
“Everyday requires constant attention to detail,” she said.
Remembering the crews of Columbia, Challenger, and Apollo 1, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier said, “All astronauts who have sacrificed their lives are pioneers and role models who refused to shy away from seemingly impossible challenges.”
Gerstenmaier spoke frankly about loss and NASA’s mistakes.
“This is a tough time of year for our agency as we pause and remember the loss of our co-workers and friends, and the failure of our engineering design. We feel the deep ache of regret,” he said. “Our memories serve to dedicate ourselves to reducing the risks associated with the hostile environment in which we fly. We must continually challenge our assumptions and test our designs. Only with this attitude can we hope to not be surprised by another tragedy.”
NASA Adminstrator Mike Griffin said, “American’s don’t quit. We’ll never quit. But today we remind ourselves that not quiting can have high costs. Today, we celebrate the people who bore those costs and the people who remain behind them. We don’t forget, we never forget, we can’t forget, we won’t forget.”
Original News Source: NASA TV