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35 years after Challenger disaster, NASA remembers fallen crews

January 28th is a Day of Remembrance honoring the lives of the crew and teacher aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. This marks 35 years since the Challenger disaster. ((NASA/Bill Ingalls))

Thirty-five years to the day after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all seven crew members on board, NASA is holding a day of remembrance Thursday in honor of the brave men and women who gave their lives in pursuit of space exploration.

The day of remembrance, which also pays tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and Columbia, features five ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Johnson Space Center in Houston, Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and Cleveland’s Glenn Research Center.

NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk is leading the observance at Arlington National Cemetery, which includes a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as well as observances for the crews of the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.

CHANNEL 4 DOCUMENTARY | Challenger: A Rush to Launch

“NASA has a unique culture that is fueled by possibility, set on a path to the next giant leap for humanity and guided by its history,” Jurczyk said in a statement. “The lessons of our past are the enduring legacy of the brave women and men who did not put limits on what could be achieved, and we all recognize the honor of being counted among them as part of the NASA family.”

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The Challenger broke up in the sky over Cape Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 28, 1986, just over a minute into its flight. Cmdr. Francis Scobee, pilot Michael Smith, mission specialists Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and payload specialists Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe were killed in the explosion.

News4JAX chronicled the disaster in its 2018 documentary, “Challenger: A Rush to Launch.” As the film revealed, engineers were aware of a flaw in solid rocket boosters’ O-rings, which lost elasticity in cold weather and did not properly seal. Despite pleas to delay, the launch carried on as scheduled.

Space Shuttle Columbia crew (NASA)

Thursday, NASA will honor the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which came apart upon entry to the atmosphere Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven crew members. Cmdr. Rick Husband, pilot William McCool, payload commander Michael Anderson, and mission specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon died.

1967: Astronauts (from left to right) Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee (NASA)

Also being remembered are Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee, the crew members who perished in the Apollo I cabin fire.