Today is Nasa's Day of Remembrance, when they pause to recognize those who gave their lives pushing the envelope of space exploration. Neil Armstrong said it best,"The rate of progress is proportional to the risk encountered. The public at large my well be more risk advers than the individuals in our business, but to limit the progress in the name of eliminating risk is no virtue."
It was fifty years ago today, when Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee perished in a "plugs out" ground test of command module 012. The test was the first time a mission rehearsal was done under the spacecraft's own power, using the pure oxygen like that would be used on the first mission. Everything was proceeding normally except for some troubleshooting of the communications system when at 6:31 PM the crew report fire in the Command Module. They suffered for only 17 seconds, when they perished due to inhalation of the toxic gases from the fire. "Go Fever," and a nationwide belief in the infallibility of America's Space Program had claimed their first victims. Today NASA opens a long overdue display honoring the trio at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Visitor Center. In the under thirty months fallowing the tragedy, NASA flew five missions and landed on the moon, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted an American flag. America had won the space race to the moon, albeit as a high cost.
The Space Mirror Memorial was dedicated in 1991 by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation to honor all astronauts who lost their lives on missions or during training. It was designated a National Memorial by Congress in that same year. It serves as a reminder that space is an unforgiving and very dangerous environment.
The astronauts have flown T-38 Talons for over forty years, both to keep their flying skills sharp, and also to travel to contractors and do public relations work. Unfortunately, four member of the astronaut corps have lost their lives in these planes. Their names are Ted Freeman, Elliot See, Charlie Bassett, and Clifton Williams.
Following the Columbia accident in 2006, NASA took thirty-two months to return to flight. Along with some recovered parts of the orbiter, there are memorabilia honoring the flight crew, as selected by their families. It give a more personal appreciation of each individual. Here is a listing of the crew: Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon.
It only took thirty months for the space shuttle to fly again after the Challenger accident in 1986. The flight crew is similarly honored with personal effects selected by their families. Here is the complete crew list: Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.
Today at 10:00 AM, NASA will pay tribute to their colleagues, with a ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial. Following the wreath laying, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will provide flowers for visitors to place at the memorial. NASA's Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of space exploration and discovery.