Next Cygnus Cargo Freighter Named in Honor of Columbia’s Last Commander Rick Husband

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a Cygnus cargo spacecraft is being prepared for the upcoming Orbital ATK Commercial Resupply Services-6 mission to deliver hardware and supplies to the International Space Station. The Cygnus was named SS Rick Husband in honor of the commander of the STS-107 mission. On that flight, the crew of the space shuttle Columbia was lost during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003. The Cygnus is scheduled to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 22.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a Cygnus cargo spacecraft is being prepared for the upcoming Orbital ATK Commercial Resupply Services-6 mission to deliver hardware and supplies to the International Space Station. The Cygnus was named SS Rick Husband in honor of the commander of the STS-107 mission. On that flight, the crew of the space shuttle Columbia was lost during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003. The Cygnus is scheduled to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 22. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The next Cygnus cargo resupply ship targeted to blastoff for the International Space Station (ISS) on March 22, has been named the S.S. Rick Husband in honor of Col. Rick Husband, the late commander of Space Shuttle Columbia, which was tragically lost with its crew of seven NASA astronauts during re-entry on its final flight on Feb. 1, 2003.

The ‘S.S. Rick Husband’ was announced as the Cygnus delivery vessels name by former astronaut Dan Tani, now senior director of Missions and Cargo Operations for Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia, during a media briefing in the clean room processing facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Rick was a very accomplished astronaut, and a devoted husband and father,” said Tani.

The commercial Cygnus cargo freighter was built by Orbital ATK, based in Dulles, Virginia.

Christened the S.S. Rick Husband, the spacecraft is a tribute to NASA astronaut Col. Rick Husband, of U.S. Air Force, who served as commander of Columbia’s STS-107 mission. The mission and all aboard were lost as Columbia disintegrated due to the effects of reentry heating into the Earth’s atmosphere high over Texas.

NASA astronaut Col. Rick Husband, of U.S. Air Force, who served as commander of Columbia’s STS-107 mission.  The Cygnus OA-6 cargo spacecraft is named the SS Rick Husband  in tribute to Rick Husband.  Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Col. Rick Husband, of U.S. Air Force, who served as commander of Columbia’s STS-107 mission. The Cygnus OA-6 cargo spacecraft is named the SS Rick Husband in tribute to Rick Husband. Credit: NASA

“We are proud to unveil the name of our #OA6 #Cygnus spacecraft—the S.S. Rick Husband, in honor of the late astronaut,” added Orbital ATK in a statement.

This flight is known as OA-6 and is being launched as under terms of the firm’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. It also counts as the Orbital ATK’s fifth cargo delivery mission to the space station.

A Cygnus cargo spacecraft named the SS Rick Husband  is being prepared inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center for upcoming Orbital ATK CRS-6/OA-6 mission to deliver hardware and supplies to the International Space Station. The Cygnus is scheduled to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 22, 2016.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
A Cygnus cargo spacecraft named the SS Rick Husband is being prepared inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for upcoming Orbital ATK CRS-6/OA-6 mission to deliver hardware and supplies to the International Space Station. The Cygnus is scheduled to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 22, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Final processing of the cargo ship was completed as bunny suited media including myself observed technicians putting the finishing touches on the vehicle inside Kennedy’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF). Technicians had already finished fueling the vehicle with hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.

Liftoff of the commercial resupply services mission to the orbiting outpost is now targeted for Tuesday, March 22, during a 30-minute launch window that opens at 11:05 p.m. EDT.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft, also known as Commercial Resupply Services-6 (CRS-6), will launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from the seaside Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.

OA-6 is loaded with 3513 kg (7700 pounds) of science experiments and hardware, crew supplies, spare parts, gear and station hardware to the orbital laboratory in support over 250 research experiments being conducted on board by the Expedition 47 and 48 crews.

When the ISS Expedition 47 crew members open the hatch, they will be greeted with a sign noting the spacecraft was named ‘SS Rick Husband’ in honor of the STS-107 mission commander.

A Cygnus cargo spacecraft named the SS Rick Husband  is being prepared inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center for upcoming Orbital ATK CRS-6/OA-6 mission to deliver hardware and supplies to the International Space Station. Cygnus is scheduled to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 22, 2016.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
A Cygnus cargo spacecraft named the SS Rick Husband is being prepared inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for upcoming Orbital ATK CRS-6/OA-6 mission to deliver hardware and supplies to the International Space Station. Cygnus is scheduled to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 22, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Overall, Orbital will deliver approximately 28,700 kilograms of cargo to the ISS under the life of the CRS contract, which extends to 2018.

STS-107 was Husband’s second flight to space.

OA-6 is the first Cygnus to named after an astronaut who actually participated in building the ISS – during his first flight as shuttle pilot on the STS-96 mission in 1999.

The prior Cygnus cargo spacecraft was named the S.S. Deke Slayton during the OA-4 mission. OA-4 successfully launched to the ISS in December 2015 – read my on site articles here.

Orbital ATK has named each Cygnus after a deceased NASA astronaut, several of whom later worked for the company.

OA-6 is only the second Cygnus to be launch atop a ULA Atlas V rocket, following the OA-4 mission last December.

The CRS-6/OA-6 flight is also the second flight of the enhanced Cygnus variant, that is over 1 meter longer and sports 50% more volume capability.

Thus it is capable of carrying a much heavier payload of some 3500 kg (7700 lbs) vs. a maximum of 2300 kg (5070 lbs) for the standard version.

A Cygnus cargo spacecraft named the SS Rick Husband  is being prepared inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center for upcoming Orbital ATK CRS-6/OA-6 mission to deliver hardware and supplies to the International Space Station. Cygnus is scheduled to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 22, 2016.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
A Cygnus cargo spacecraft named the SS Rick Husband is being prepared inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for upcoming Orbital ATK CRS-6/OA-6 mission to deliver hardware and supplies to the International Space Station. Cygnus is scheduled to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on March 22, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Watch for Ken’s onsite launch reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about Orbital ATK Cygnus, ISS, ULA Atlas rocket, SpaceX, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Mar 21/22: “Orbital ATK Atlas/Cygnus launch to the ISS, ULA, SpaceX, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evening Mar 21 /late afternoon Mar 22

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Spacecraft carrying vital cargo to resupply the International Space Station lifts-off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Dec. 6, 2015.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Spacecraft carrying vital cargo to resupply the International Space Station lifts-off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Dec. 6, 2015. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Challenger and Columbia Crews Memorialized in Emotional New “Forever Remembered” Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center

An iconic section of the fuselage recovered from space shuttle Challenger with the American flag (left) and the flight deck windows recovered from space shuttle Columbia (right) are part of a new, permanent memorial, “Forever Remembered,” that opened on June 27, 2015 in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida – featuring shuttle hardware and personal crew items never before on display for viewing by the public. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
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NASA’s two lost Shuttle crews from the searing Challenger and Columbia accidents are now memorialized in the newly opened, permanent and highly emotional “Forever Remembered” tribute display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

The “Forever Remembered” memorial tribute was officially opened by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, both veteran shuttle astronauts, at a very special and moving small private NASA ceremony attended by families of the 14 fallen crew members and invited members of the media including Universe Today on June 27, 2015.

“I believe that it’s important to share this story with everyone, and not just push it aside, or try to hide it,” Cabana said at the ceremony, as tears welled up in everyone present.

The shuttle tribute is located on the ground floor of the Space Shuttle Atlantis pavilion at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and features shuttle orbiter hardware recovered from both the Challenger STS-51L and Columbia STS-107 accidents, as well as personal crew items from all 14 courageous astronauts who lost their lives – items never before on display for viewing by the public.

The 2000 square foot exhibit features an iconic section of the fuselage recovered from space shuttle Challenger emblazoned with the American flag and the flight deck windows recovered from space shuttle Columbia, that are part of the permanent “Forever Remembered” memorial that opened on June 27, 2015 – see photo above.

It also holds the largest collection of personal items of both flight crews in individual displays about the 14 crew members in a hallway that leads to a plaque with a quote from U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave,” said President Ronald Reagan in remarks to the nation in mourning shortly after the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

Astronaut walkway exhibit in the permanent new “Forever Remembered” memorial  to the 14 fallen crew members of the Columbia and Challenger Space Shuttle orbiters in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, featuring personal crew items never before on display for viewing by the public.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Astronaut walkway exhibit in the permanent new “Forever Remembered” memorial to the 14 fallen crew members of the Columbia and Challenger Space Shuttle orbiters in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, featuring personal crew items never before on display for viewing by the public. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The “Forever Remembered” display was conceived in private by a very small circle spearheaded by Cabana and unknown by outsiders until the day it was formally opened. It completes the display inside the Atlantis pavilion, which commemorates NASA’s three decade long Space Shuttle Program that flew 135 missions from 1981 to 2011 with the reusable delta-winged vehicles that “captivated a generation.”

It is intended to be an emotional experience and “designed to honor the crews, pay tribute to the spacecraft and emphasize the importance of learning from the past” and the tragic consequences. This will enable safer flights in the future and fortify the spirit of never giving up on the exploration of space.

“The tragedies galvanized the agency to learn from these painful events, not only to safely return the shuttle fleet to flight, but to help assure the safety of future explorers,” NASA said in a statement.

Several dozen family members attended the tearful, heartfelt opening ceremony of “Forever Remembered” with very emotional remarks from Cabana and Bolden.

“These crews and these vehicles are part of who we are as an agency, and a nation. They tell the story of our never ending quest to explore, and our undying spirit to never give up,” Cabana stated at the ceremony.

Columbia and Challenger were the nation’s first two orbiters to be built. Columbia launched on the maiden space shuttle flight on April 12, 1981 on what is revered by many as the “boldest test flight in history” with NASA astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen.

“When I look into those windows, I see John Young and Bob Crippen preparing to launch on the boldest test flight in history, the first flight of America’s space shuttle, Columbia,” Cabana added.

“I see a much younger Bob Cabana launching to space on his first command, and I see Rick and Willie and the rest of the 107 crew smiling and experiencing the wonders of space on the final flight of Columbia.”

The idea to create a permanent memorial originated with a team led by Bob Cabana, and approved by Charlie Bolden only after every one of the astronauts families were in complete and unqualified agreement that this tribute display was the right thing to do in memory of their loved ones, tragically lost during the in flight accidents in 1986 and 2003.

“The crews of Challenger and Columbia are forever a part of a story that is ongoing,” Bolden said at the ceremony.

“It is the story of humankind’s evolving journey into space, the unknown, and the outer-reaches of knowledge, discovery and possibility. It is a story of hope.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden officially opens the “Forever Remembered” memorial tribute to the fallen crews of the Columbia and Challenger Space Shuttle orbiters in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida on Junwe 27, 2015.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden officially opens the “Forever Remembered” memorial tribute to the fallen crews of the Columbia and Challenger Space Shuttle orbiters in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida on June 27, 2015. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The wives of the two shuttle commanders, shared their thoughts on the new exhibit:

“It’s a beautiful remembrance of all the shuttles, with the marvelous display of Atlantis. Nothing compares to it in the world,” said June Scobee Rodgers, whose husband, Dick Scobee, commanded Challenger on STS-51L, in a statement.

“But Challenger and Columbia are not forgotten, and they’re well represented.”

“I knew it would be very emotional to see, but honestly, I didn’t expect to be so impacted by it. I just can’t stop thinking about it. As you walk in, you know you’re in a special place,” Evelyn Husband Thompson said of the memorial. Her husband, Rick, commanded Columbia on STS-107.

Up close view of the iconic section of the fuselage recovered from space shuttle Challenger with the American flag now on permanent display in the newly opened “Forever Remembered” public memorial tribute located in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Up close view of the iconic section of the fuselage recovered from space shuttle Challenger with the American flag now on permanent display in the newly opened “Forever Remembered” public memorial tribute located in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Here is a NASA description of both the Columbia and Challenger accidents and crews:

“Temperatures at Kennedy Space Center were just a few degrees above freezing on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, as Challenger lifted off on its 10th mission, STS-51L. One minute and 13 seconds into the flight, a booster failure caused an explosion that destroyed the vehicle, resulting in the loss of the crew of seven astronauts: Commander Francis Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka and Ronald McNair, and Payload Specialists Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire schoolteacher.”

“Seventeen years later, on Jan. 16, 2003, NASA’s flagship orbiter Columbia thundered into orbit on STS-107, a 16-day science mission. On board were Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown and Laurel Clark, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut. On Feb. 1, 2003, the orbiter broke apart in the skies above east Texas as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on the way to a planned landing at Kennedy. Seven more lives were lost.”

“Forever Remembered” public memorial tribute to the fallen crews of the Columbia and Challenger Space Shuttle orbiters is located on the ground floor of the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, visible just below the shuttle wing in this photo.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
“Forever Remembered” public memorial tribute to the fallen crews of the Columbia and Challenger Space Shuttle orbiters is located on the ground floor of the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, visible just below the shuttle wing in this photo. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Today the fallen astronauts legacy of human spaceflight lives on at NASA with the International Space Station, the development of Commercial Crew manned capsules for low Earth orbit, and the development of the Orion deep space crew exploration vehicle and SLS rocket for NASA’s ambitious plans to send ‘Human to Mars’ in the 2030s.

Read more about both fallen shuttle crews and the Apollo 1 crew who perished in a launch pad accident in January 1967 in my tribute story posted here during NASA’s solemn week of remembrance in January.

The explosion of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket some two minutes after launch on June 28, 2015 is a reminder that space flight is never easy or routine. Starting sometime in 2017, astronauts will launch to the ISS in a crew Dragon atop the Falcon 9. It will be equipped with a launch abort system that the shuttles never had, in case of a launch emergency.

I urge everyone to visit this hallowed “Forever Remembered” memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to benefit all of us in the quest for new knowledge of the boundless expanse of space leading to new discoveries we cannot fathom today.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana officially opens the “Forever Remembered” memorial tribute to the fallen crews of the Columbia and Challenger Space Shuttle orbiters in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida on June 27, 2015.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana officially opens the “Forever Remembered” memorial tribute to the fallen crews of the Columbia and Challenger Space Shuttle orbiters in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida on June 27, 2015. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
The new Space Shuttle Atlantis pavilion at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
The new Space Shuttle Atlantis pavilion at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Remembering Columbia and Suffering from Survivor’s Guilt

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Across the social networks today, many people were sharing their memories of the Columbia space shuttle accident, which happened 9 years ago, on February 1, 2003. Most all of us have a “where I was and what I was doing” story, but one of the most poignant posts today came from Michael Interbartolo, who works for NASA, and in 2003 was on the Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) Flight Control team for the space shuttle. While he wasn’t in Mission Control when Columbia was lost, he still feels the pain of the accident each year when the anniversary date approaches.

“Every year I struggle with survivor’s guilt,” he wrote on Google+, “and wonder what if I had a time machine?”

In sharing an email he wrote just a few days after the accident, Interbartolo said, “I really feel like we lost 8 members of the family. Columbia was like the family dog who had gotten old, but she was still loyal and true and you knew you could count on her…It hurts to lose friends like this. I didn’t know any of them personally other than a meeting here and there or maybe in a sim together, but right now it feels like a big part of me is gone.”

Michael Interbartolo in Mission Control. Image courtesy of Michael Interbartolo

Interbartolo continued, expressing his love of his job: “To work here at mission control is a wonder each and every day and really is the stuff dreams are made of. For some this is just a job, others share my enthusiasm and love for the program, but everyone is dedicated 110% each day to bring each astronaut safely home every mission and when they don’t then we all feel the pain and anguish like right now.”

With February 1st here again, Interbartolo says he repeatedly goes through what he and others in Mission Control possibly could have done differently. “What if I could go back in time to try and save Columbia and her crew? Now with 9 years of experience since the accident, the Shuttle put out to pasture and no access to space on our own, changing that point in time almost seems more important.”

Interbartolo came up with four different scenarios of what possibly could happen if he had a time machine:

Debris from the space shuttle Columbia streaks across the sky near Tyler, Texas.

Scenario One – Day of Deorbit:

From the time the Entry team came on console to GO For deorbit burn, it is typically about 6 hours. So it would be the “12 Angry Men” scenario, bit by bit trying to convince the team to wave off the burn… Sure it would make for a tension filled movie, but reality is waving off the burn and convincing them to open the payload bay doors, activate the robotic arm and look solves nothing, probably. The crew would know they were dead; they could put the orbiter into a powerdown, but time would be short with limited consumables to come up with a repair that would work. In Hollywood movies sure, in real life? Too risky to use the Time Machine here, we need to go further back to ensure success.

A shower of foam debris after the impact on Columbia?s left wing. The event was not observed in real time. Credit: NASA

Scenario Two – Flight Day Two:

Images start coming in showing the foam strike, but as history has shown the management team was not listening and there were plenty of missed opportunities. So how could I convince them any better. It would take a few days, then get the DOD to use their assets to image the damage and if I hadn’t gotten the powerdown of the orbiter we still only have limited time plus how to repair? a Spacewalk is possible but we didn’t have wing leading edge or tile repairs kits until after the Columbia Accident so now we would have to come up with it on the fly probably stuffing maybe water bags, a space suit or something into the hole, cold soaking the wing and hope the turbulent boundary layer and plasma are kept at bay. time is short and this is still pretty risky and certainly a lot more engineering effort than fitting a square LiOH into a round hole (Apollo 13 issue). Need to go further back.

Columbia on the launchpad before the STS-107 mission. Credit: NASA

Scenario Three – PreLaunch No GO:

Where to jump in, foam had been an issue since STS-1 and was not seen as a concern. Heck even after Columbia we still had foam issues and had to redesign the Ice Frost Ramps and other bracket interfaces. Convincing the team to wave off prelaunch would require debris transport analysis to show foam could strike at high speed on the wings plus impact testing to show how much damage it would be. So now we grounded the fleet, worked on the foam, augmented ascent imagery assets/analysis, but we would still need a boom sensor, inspection techniques and repair options. A fundamental shift in how we do business and think about foam, something that only really happened because of Columbia, this would require overcoming the “Failure of Imagination” mindset. Hmm maybe we need to go back further.

Columbia landing at Edwards Air Force Base on the first shuttle mission, STS-1. Credit: NASA

Scenario Four – Designing the STS:

All the way back to the 70’s, reusable winged system side mounted on a big tank of foam that needed a 1500 nm cross range for once around polar DOD flights from Vandenburg. So it comes down to Only Nixon can save Columbia by scrapping the design and coming up with something else. If we can mitigate the foam loss or get away from fragile Reinforced Carbon Carbon wings in the danger zone then maybe Columbia could be saved (and maybe we can fix the O-ring and save Challenger as well). So now we trade 7 lives for 30 years of shuttle operations, launching telescopes/spacecraft, and building the space station. Could we come up with another heavy lift design that can go from rocket to space truck to orbiting space station to flying brick? This is the Kobayashi Maru for Time Traveler and the Space Shuttle Program, do I risk all the discoveries, knowledge, science and a space station by fundamentally changing the design to save Columbia? Maybe February 1st really is a Fixed Point in Time and Space.

In the end, Interbartolo said, there is no time machine; the Columbia and her crew are still lost, the Shuttle completes her mission of building the space station and now we have the gap of not being able to launch our own astronauts.

“There will be future loss of life in the pursuit of space because it is a harsh and unforgiving environment with objects travelling in excess of 17,500 mph and there will always be Unknown, Unknowns,” Interbartolo wrote. “But as Gus (Grissom)said, “The conquest of space is worth the risk,’ and through the tragedies of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia we are reminded that we must be vigilant and always attentive to the dangers of spaceflight; never accepting success as a substitute for rigor in everything we do. We must always be aware that suddenly and unexpectedly we may find ourselves in a role where our performance has ultimate consequences. And finally we must recognize that the greatest error is not to have tried and failed, but that in the trying we do not give it our best effort.”

Universe Today thanks Michael Interbartolo for allowing us to share his memories and his grief.

Memorial Service Honors Columbia Astronauts

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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