Each year the Astronauts Memorial Foundation holds a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center to remember the astronauts who gave their lives while serving to further the NASA mission of space exploration. It is generally held on the last Thursday of January, since many of the tragedies occurred around this time of year.
This year, the annual Day of Remembrance was held at the Astronauts Memorial Foundation building at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC), as well as at the Space Mirror Memorial.
On January 25th, 2018, family, friends, coworkers and others came together to remember the crews of Apollo 1 (1/27/67), STS-51L (Challenger – 1/28/86), STS-107 (Columbia – 2/1/03) and other astronauts killed in the line of duty. It was a somber occasion, but also a time to remember some of the joys that these astronauts gave to others during their lives.
Thad Altman, president and CEO of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation hosted the event, and speakers included Eileen Collins, former shuttle astronaut and commander, Robert Cabana, former astronaut and KSC director, and family members of some of the astronauts also spoke of their loved ones.
One of the most memorable moments was when Tal Ramon, son of Columbia astronaut Ilan Ramon (the first Israeli to go into space) performed 2 songs that he had written to remember his father and the other astronauts. One song had lyrics, and the other was just a keyboard instrumental piece, but both were stirring and the performances left many attendees with tears in their eyes as he spoke softly of how his father had influenced his life and his music.
During the ceremony, a few videos were also shown to remember the fallen astronauts, and at the end, the names of each of the fallen astronauts was read, and a picture of them was shown on the projection screens.
After this, there was a processional over to the Space Mirror Memorial, also at the KSCVC, where a wreath was laid in memoriam. As the dark mirror reflected back a sky filled with scattered clouds, each attendee was given a flower that they could attach to the fence surrounding the memorial, while silently remembering the fallen heroes.
As they did, they could look up and read the names of each of the fallen astronauts, engraved forever on the mirror above them, and if you looked closely, could even see the reflection of the American flag, flying nearby.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a member of Apollo 11 and one of the first humans to step foot on the moon, attended to remember his fallen colleagues, but especially Ed White, who perished in the fire of Apollo 1. He considered Ed his best friend, and later tweeted “We’ll always remember them and honor their sacrifice by pushing forward. We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard.”
Yesterday we honored astronauts we've lost. I lost my best friend Ed White in the Apollo 1 fire and other colleagues. We'll always remember them and honor their sacrifice by pushing forward. We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard. #NASARemembers pic.twitter.com/e1kQt1m8jy
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) January 26, 2018
It is a sentiment that most in attendance seemed to hold – the sacrifices of these lives were
tremendous, but they give us all the more reason to continue on towards future space exploration.
For more information on the KSCVC, call 877-313-2610 or visit KennedySpaceCenter.com.