Columbia Anniversary Memorial

NASA marked the fifth anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster today at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There was a ceremony of remembrance for the seven astronauts who were killed. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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Mission Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Mike Anderson, and Mission Specialists David Brown, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.

Their ceremony of remembrance was held at the Space Mirror Memorial, a large reflecting ediface bearing the names of all the astronauts who've died in the American space program.

NASA Admnistrator Michael Griffin told their families and friends that space exploration must continue despite the costs and very real dangers, but we must never forget those who've paved the way with their lives.

"We celebrate the losses, and the people who remained behind to bear them, we want them always to know that they remain part of our family, that they will always be part of our family.ξ That we don't forget, we never forget, we can't forget, and we won't forget."

Retired astronaut Eileen Collins helped lead the investigation of the Columbia disaster, and she commanded the first shuttle mission that went up after Columbia two and a half years later. Barely able to contain her tears, Collins said her late friends and colleagues were doing the most important work anyone can do.

"And at some point in the future people will leave our planet on a routine basis, and I believe that this type of exploration will not only serve to benefit our planet, but will make our quality of life better. Space exploration may even contribute to the survival of our planet."

The keynote speaker was Evelyn Husband-Thompson, widow of Columbia Commander Rick Husband. She spoke of how her life was torn apart on this day five years ago, and she thanked her faith God for the strength to move on and even remarry.ξ

"On behalf of all of the Columbia families I want to thank your support these last five years. NASA has stood by our side through thick and thin, has supported us, made us feel very loved, made us feel very much a part of the NASA family, and for that I am extremely grateful."

The ceremony of remembrance was sponsored jointly by NASA and the Astronauts Memorial Foundation. There's a link to the foundation on our website KUHF dot org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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