NASA Memorial Day: A ceremony will be held for fallen astronauts

The tribute to the lives lost in the pursuit of space will take place at 10 a.m. on January 27.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Every January, NASA pauses to honor and remember the lives lost in the pursuit of space and “advance the cause of exploration and discovery.”

The tribute is called “NASA Day of Remembrance” and will take place on January 27. The date marks the 55th anniversary of the tragic fire that killed the Apollo I mission’s three-person crew during an upstream test.

“Space exploration is an inherently risky business. While NASA and its astronauts willingly and courageously accept these risks, it is the duty of the living to honor and commemorate each tragic loss we have suffered,” wrote the most the country’s largest space agency.

The tradition of the ceremony began in 2004 and is held on the last Thursday in January to honor three of the agency’s most devastating tragedies: the Apollo I fire, the loss of the space shuttle Challenger, and the loss of the space shuttle Columbia.

Although each tragedy occurred in the same calendar week, they occurred decades apart.

“NASA Memorial Day is not just a time to commemorate our fallen astronaut heroes, but a time to reflect on why we are continuing this mission and all that the extended NASA family has sacrificed for. achieve this,” NASA wrote.

This year, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will mark the solemn day with a celebration at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Specific observances for the Apollo I, Challenger and Columbia crews will follow.

“NASA Memorial Day is an opportunity to honor NASA family members who have lost their lives in our common effort to advance exploration and discovery for the benefit of all mankind” , Nelson said.

“Every day we have the opportunity to further enhance the legacy of those who gave their lives in the pursuit of discovery by taking the next giant leap, meeting every challenge head-on, as they did In doing so, we must never forget the lessons learned from each tragedy and embrace our core value of security,” he added.

In Florida, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in partnership with The Astronauts Memorial Foundation, will hold its own ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial.

The ceremony will include remarks from Kennedy Center Deputy Director Kelvin Manning and Astronauts Memorial Foundation President and CEO Thad Altman.

You can watch the ceremony starting at 10 a.m. on KSC’s Facebook. You can also tune in to 10 Tampa Bay on Facebook, YouTube or online to watch the live stream.

Apollo I

On January 27, 1967, a fire broke out during an upstream test of what would later be called the Apollo I mission.

The three-person crew of Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee were all killed when flames swept through the mission’s command module.

“The investigation into the fatal accident has led to major design and engineering changes, making the Apollo spacecraft safer for future trips to the Moon,” NASA wrote.

It is believed that the fire most likely started in the lower front part of an equipment bay. NASA says the fire burned in three stages.


On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff due to booster engine failure.

NASA said the shuttle, carrying six astronauts and the first teacher in space, was at an altitude of 46,000 feet when it became “totally enveloped in the explosive burn”.

The incident claimed the lives of Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka and Christa McAuliffe.

In addressing the nation, at the time, President Ronald Reagan is noted as quoting John Gillespie Magee’s poem “High Flight”.

“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye to them and slipped the surly bonds of the earth to ‘touch the face of God,'” he said. .

The cause of the explosion was determined to be an “O-ring” failure in the right solid rocket booster, according to NASA. The country’s main space agency says the cold also played a part in the tragedy.


On February 1, 2003, the seven-member crew of NASA’s space shuttle Columbia was 16 minutes from landing when Mission Control lost contact with the shuttle.

A piece of foam had fallen from the external tank during launch and opened a hole in one of the shuttle’s wings. The action led to the orbiter breaking up during reentry, according to NASA.

The incident claimed the lives of Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Blair Salton Clark and Ilan Ramon.

Addressing the nation, then-President George W. Bush said, “Mankind is being led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the desire to understand. Our journey into space will continue.”

The crew had just completed a 16-day mission focused on physical, life and space science research, according to NASA.

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