NASA to observe Shuttle Columbia 20th anniversary at Houston’s Johnson Space Center

FILE - Flags are planted at the Astronaut Tree Grove at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston...
FILE - Flags are planted at the Astronaut Tree Grove at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston as part of the agency's annual Day of Remembrance observances.(Norah Moran – NASA – Johnson Space Center | Source: NASA)
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:26 AM CST

HOUSTON, Texas (KLTV) - NASA is planning observances at several of its facilities around the country to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, including an event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

On Thursday, the agency’s annual Day of Remembrance pays tribute to the lives lost in pursuit of space exploration, including the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia.

In Houston, employees at Johnson Space Center will gather at 10 a.m. in the Astronaut Memorial Grove for a ceremony featuring remarks by NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy and JSC Director Vanessa Wyche, as well as a T-38 jet flyover. Taps will be performed by the Texas A&M Squadron 17.

Johnson Space Center will also host an employee panel discussion that “will discuss lessons learned from the STS-107 Columbia tragedy and the impact on human spaceflight development and operations,” a news release stated.

Next week, Wyche will also be a keynote speaker at a Shuttle Columbia memorial service in East Texas. Other NASA employees and members of the NASA Alumni League are expected to participate in the commemorations, as well.

The crew of STS-107 mission perished on Feb. 1, 2003 as Space Shuttle Columbia re-entered...
The crew of STS-107 mission perished on Feb. 1, 2003 as Space Shuttle Columbia re-entered Earth's atmosphere high above East Texas. (Source: NASA)

The ‘Remembering Columbia’ Museum in Hemphill is planning a series of events next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, February 1, which is the 20th anniversary of the day the space shuttle broke apart over East Texas.

A public memorial service at 7:45 a.m. will feature several keynote speakers: Gerry Schumann, who was NASA’s lead safety representative and incident commander during the Shuttle Columbia tragedy; Mike Leinbach, NASA’s Space Shuttle Program Launch Director who also led the initial Columbia debris recovery efforts in East Texas; Sean O’Keefe, NASA Administrator during the Shuttle Columbia accident and recovery; Louie Gohmert, who represented East Texas in Congress for 18 years; NASA’s John Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche; and veteran NASA astronaut Jerry Ross, who flew aboard Columbia on one of his seven spaceflights.

An art exhibition, panel discussions, high school robotics competition, book signings, and free admission to the museum are also part of the schedule.

A separate commemoration is also planned in Nacogdoches to rededicate seven trees in Banita Creek Park’s ‘Columbia Court,’ planted in honor of the STS-107 crew shortly after the accident in 2003.

NASA’s Day of Remembrance will also be observed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, among others.