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Friday, February 1, 2013

The 7-member crew of space shuttle Columbia's final flight, STS-107.
NASA

STS-107: 10 Years Ago Today... On the morning of February 1, 2003, I remember still being asleep in my bed when one of my family members knocked on my door, woke me up, and told me that "the space shuttle exploded." I immediately got out of bed and went downstairs...watching on TV an unfolding tragic event that would obviously have major repercussions for NASA a decade later. What made this tragedy surreal was that only on the previous day was I reading about mission STS-107 and how well it was going on the website Space.com. Columbia's crew achieved many goals during their 16-day sojourn in low-Earth orbit as they conducted a multitude of scientific experiments in the orbiter's SPACEHAB module. I was looking forward to seeing this flight successfully (and safely) conclude as International Space Station assembly was briefly interrupted so Commander Rick Husband and his 6 fellow astronauts could add to the knowledge that has been gained working in the weightlessness of space since the shuttle program commenced with Columbia's inaugural flight in 1981. Little did we all know, a different type of knowledge was (painfully) achieved from STS-107: That along with Challenger's ill-fated voyage in 1986, Columbia's demise made us realize how hazardous space exploration still is...and the dangerous results that come when the powers-that-be grow complacent about making sure that humans and even interplanetary probes are as safe as possible when they are engaged in the rigors of space travel.

Located on the back of the Spirit Mars rover's high-gain antenna, this plaque pays tribute to STS-107.
NASA / JPL

Today is NASA's official Day of Remembrance for those who perished in the name of human spaceflight. Columbia... Challenger... Apollo 1... We will never forget the sacrifices 17 brave souls made so we could continue to set our eyes on venturing to the cosmos. In the case of Columbia, I posted photos with this entry commemorating that fateful winter day—and what NASA and America in general have done to remember OV-102 and her lost crew. Hail Columbia.

A helmet, believed to have come from one of space shuttle Columbia's 7 crew members, lies in a field near Lufkin, Texas...on February 2, 2003.
Christine Diamond / The Lufkin Daily News

In the RLV Hangar at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the floor grid is dotted with pieces of space shuttle Columbia debris on March 13, 2003.
NASA

President George W. Bush bows his head in prayer with family members of the STS-107 astronauts during a memorial service at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas...on February 4, 2003.
Larry Downing / Reuters

A wreath is placed in front of the space shuttle Columbia memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
NASA / Bill Ingalls

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