Though it happened nearly 30 years ago, I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. I was in first grade, and our principal came in and talked to us about the space shuttle Challenger disaster that had just taken place. Though I was young, that day impacted me because I was really into the space shuttle. My grandfather would spend the winters down in Florida, and always bring back space shuttle memorabilia for me. It was a traumatic experience ingrained into my memory.
Fast forward 17 years later. I was sitting in the parking lot of a Chili’s restaurant in McHenry, IL with my wife and 2 sons, 2 years old and 1 month old. We were getting ready to go in when the radio broke in with a news bulletin that the President of the United States would be making a special address. I couldn’t hold back the tears as President George W. Bush stated,
My fellow Americans, this day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country. At nine o’clock this morning, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with our Space Shuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas. The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors.
Now, in 2015, an exhibit has opened at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex commemorating the 14 astronauts who lost their lives on STS-51L and STS-107. The “Forever Remembered” exhibit was kept secret, even from many employees at the Visitor Complex, and unveiled Saturday morning, June 27.
Two officials from NASA presided over the opening – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. As previous astronauts themselves, both have deep ties to those who were lost. In his remarks, Administrator Bolden stated:
The crews of Challenger and Columbia are forever a part of a story that is ongoing. 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.
The families of the crews of STS-51L and STS-107 worked with NASA in creating an exhibit that focuses on the lost astronauts, the space shuttles they made their final flights in, and the importance of the lessons we can learn from them. The new exhibit covers nearly 2,000 square feet, with personal items from the flight crews as well as recovered hardware from Challenger and Columbia.
Along with the personal collections, the memorial contains part of the fuselage from the Challenger, with the American flag on it, and the Columbia’s flight deck windows.
Do you remember where you were when these disasters occurred? Is this something you’d go out of your way to see? Share your story in the comments.Source: SpaceFlightInsider