On a frosty January morning 33 years ago, Karan Conklin watched from a relative's front porch as the shuttle Challenger climbed from Kennedy Space Center.
Seventy-three seconds into the flight, her family witnessed the unthinkable: an explosion that doomed the seven-person crew including Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe.
“Never in all of my years living on the Space Coast had I ever experienced such heartbreak as when we watched the explosion with trails of smoke and debris spiraling from the sky,” remembered Conklin, executive director of the American Space Museum in Titusville. “The Columbia disaster the same way, we were all glued to the televisions, not able to get enough news, because again a nation mourned.”
On Saturday, Jan. 26, the public is invited to pay tribute to the nation’s fallen astronauts at an 11 a.m. memorial ceremony at Titusville’s Sand Point Park.
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, a four-time shuttle pilot and commander, will deliver a keynote speech honoring the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.
The anniversaries of each of those tragedies fall in quick succession over the next week.
On Jan. 27, 1967, fire swept through the Apollo 1 capsule during a practice countdown at Launch Complex 34, killing three crew members. Challenger was lost during ascent on Jan. 28, 1986. And Columbia broke up during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003, killing seven astronauts.
It’s a painful week each year for NASA, made worse this year by the partial government shutdown that, before a short-term deal was announced Friday afternoon, had furloughed most of the space agency’s civil servants for more than a month.
NASA postponed its annual Day of Remembrance, which had been scheduled for Jan. 31, including an event at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
“We have decided to delay our observance until the NASA family is able to come together to remember our fallen astronauts and those who have given their life in pursuit of exploration,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced this week. “We will make this a priority once the furlough is over and everyone is back to work.”
That will make Titusville’s annual ceremony, co-hosted by the city’s Flag and Memorial Committee and the American Space Museum, all the more timely and poignant.
The event is free and open to the public.
“It makes it easier for parents to bring their children so that they can learn about these great men and women and the sacrifice of a nation,” said Conklin. “For those of us who are older, it is a time of reverence and reflection.”
Quelle: Florida Today