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20 years after Columbia disaster, NASA remembers lost crew with focus on safety

 The Space Memorial Mirror at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
John Owen
Wikimedia Commons
The Space Memorial Mirror at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

NASA honored those who lost their lives to further the cause of exploration and discovery Thursday during its annual Day of Remembrance. The remembrance comes 20 years since the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew.

The agency's Day of Remembrance honors the crews lost during the Apollo and Space Shuttle program at space centers across the country.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and the Astronauts Memorial Foundation are held a remembrance ceremony Thursday at the Space Memorial Mirror.

Along with remembering the lost astronauts, NASA leadership are urging agency employees to always remember the lessons learned from these tragedies.

"It's so important that we focus the whole week. In fact, the whole year and every day remembering our fallen colleagues, while also celebrating their legacy," said Pam Melroy, NASA's Deputy Administrator, at a safety town hall earlier this week.

The Day of Remembrance honors the seven killed aboard Space Shuttle Challenger, which blew up shortly after liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in 1986, and Space Shuttle Columbia which broke apart during re-entry in 2003 killing all seven astronauts.

"I was someone that had to tell the families, they weren't coming home. I don't ever want to have to do that again," said NASA's Associate Administrator Bob Cabana. He was the director of flight crew operations for that mission.

"We can prevent accidents, with people flying in space. That's why our day of remembrance is so important."

NASA's Day of Remembrance also honors the crew of Apollo 1. Three astronauts were killed in a fire inside their capsule during a pre-launch test in 1967.
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