Remembering Space Shuttle Columbia

The Loss of an Orbiter

space shuttle columbia crew
The crew of STS-107, lost when space shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry on February 1, 2002.

It’s a hard thing to think about — the loss of a space shuttle. They are graceful, flying machines and for one to fall out of the air on a bright February morning is a tough thing to remember. The third of NASA’s space-related tragedies occurred on February 1, 2002, when space shuttle Columbia was destroyed as it returned to Earth. With the loss of those astronauts aboard, our country once again paused to mourn people who risked their lives in the pursuit of space exploration.

Exploration is the Most Appropriate Tribute

Although it has been a decade and a half since the Columbia tragedy, it’s still clear in many people’s memories. Just as the Challenger explosion and the Apollo 1 fire have been for even more decades. Nobody said going to space was ever easy. Heck, just exploring our planet was (and is) difficult and people risked their lives to do that and continue to do so. Yet, we don’t stop mountain climbing or flying or trekking or visiting the ocean depths. We pick ourselves up and keep on going.

It’s the same with space exploration. Space agencies around the world continue the exploration of space in whatever way they can. In the U.S., we see new launch vehicles being tested and used, and in the future, there will be more. And, all those methods employ people in good jobs, which is a plus, as well. On the science side, every mission sent to the planets, to orbit our own to explore the cosmos, pays back dividends in knowledge that helps us understand the universe. Of course none of this is easy, and when there is a tragedy, every space agency investigates, makes changes, and keeps on going. That’s the nature of the business.

It’s a good thing to celebrate the lives of those who are lost exploring space, no matter where in the world they come from or which space agency they worked for. They died doing something for the rest of us, and our ongoing exploration of the universe is the best tribute we can make in their memory.

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