NASA Honors Crews of Apollo 204, Challenger and Columbia

NASA Honors Crews of Apollo 204, Challenger and Columbia

NASA will hold a Day of Remembrance on Thursday, January 27, to honor three spaceflight crews who lost their lives:

  • Apollo 204— Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, all NASA astronauts, who died on the pad during a pre-launch test when fire engulfed their Apollo capsule on January 27, 1967. The Apollo 204 Review Board concluded the fire was caused by electrical arcing in the 100% oxygen atmosphere in the capsule; the exact location of the arcing was not determined. It also found flaws in the design of the Apollo capsule (e.g., the hatch swung inward so that when pressure inside increased because of the fire, the crew could not open it) and operational procedures. If the mission had flown successfully, it would have been Apollo 1. It was 21 months before the next U.S. human spaceflight mission (Apollo 7) took place.
  • Challenger (STS-51L) — Dick Scobee(NASA), Mike Smith (NASA), Judith Resnik (NASA), Ellison Onizuka (NASA), Ron McNair (NASA), Greg Jarvis (Hughes Aircraft), and Christa McAuliffe (New Hampshire schoolteacher) who died on January 28, 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch. The Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident found that cold weather at the launch site caused the failure of a rubber O-ring in one of the two solid rocket boosters (SRB), allowing gases to escape and causing a catastrophic explosion. As with the Apollo 204 report, organizational and other issues were also identified. It was 32 months before the next U.S. human spaceflight mission (STS-26).
  • Columbia (STS-107)— Rick Husband (NASA), William McCool (NASA), Michael Anderson (NASA), David Brown (NASA), Kalpana Chawla (NASA), Laurel Clark (NASA), and Ilan Ramon (Israeli Air Force) who died on February 1, 2003 when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry. The physical cause was superheated gas (which surrounds the shuttle during reentry) entering the left wing because of a hole that had been formed during launch by debris from the External Tank. The fire deformed the shuttle’s wing creating aerodynamic forces that pulled the orbiter apart over Texas, minutes before it would have landed in Florida. As with the previous reports, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) found that there were other causes, cultural and organizational, that were just as important. (A synopsis of the CAIB report is available here.) It was 29 months before the next U.S. human spaceflight mission (STS-114).

NASA will commemorate the Day of Remembrance with a series of wreath-layings at Arlington National Cemetery, Kennedy Space Center, and Johnson Space Center. A schedule of events is available in the NASA press release.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy and a separate event will be held on January 28 at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Speakers will include NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier; June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee; Robert Cabana, former astronaut and KSC Director; and Michael McCulley, former astronaut and chairman of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, which is sponsoring the event. Mrs. Rodgers and members of the other Challenger families created the Challenger Center for Space Science Education whose vision is “to create a scientifically literate population that can thrive in a world increasingly driven by information and technology.”

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.