The Great Texas Balloon Race was the back drop today for a ceremony to remember the astronauts of the shuttle Columbia as well as the effort East Texans made in the recovery. Air Force officer and NASA astronaut Colonel Pamela Ann Melroy was on hand as a keynote speaker to honor those who died.
"This is an opportunity for us to come up and say thank you, thank you for inspiring us to greater heights, thank you for helping us to understand what happned, thank you for helping us with your hearts to help us grieve and move on," said Melroy.
Plaques and memorial photographs were given to local dignitaries, and a permanent memorial was unveiled that will greet all those who arrive at the airport.
"It was important to voice for the generations to come how important it is to remember these people that gave their lives and the part that Gregg county played in the recovery," said Gregg County judge Bill Stoudt.
Now the space program is working to move past the disaster, eventually reaching newer heights. "We hope to pass forward the torch to a future generation in school right now about your age is going to be the first person on the surface of Mars," says Melroy.