American Space Tragedies, Astronauts Honored This Week
Apollo 1 astronauts pose in front of Pad 34. From left: Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White II, Roger B. Chaffee.
Credit: NASA

NASA and the city of Titusville will pay tribute this week to American astronauts who lost their lives in the line of duty.

With the anniversaries of the 1967 Apollo 1 launch pad fire, the 1986 Challenger explosion and the 2003 Columbia accident all in the next eight days, NASA will stage a Day of Remembrance ceremony on Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

KSC Director Robert Cabana, a former astronaut, will lay a wreath at the base of the Space Mirror Memorial at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

"It honors all those who have died in the pursuit of space exploration and discovery," said KSC spokesman Allard Beutel.

Cabana, who commanded two shuttle missions and piloted two others, also will be the keynote speaker at the city of Titusville's Astronaut Memorial Ceremony on Saturday.

Mayor Jim Tully and Cabana will speak at the ceremony, which is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Sand Point Park.

Held annually, the ceremony pays tribute to the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia astronauts and honors "all astronauts who brave the unknown challenges of space," according to a public notice posted at the city's Web site.

The Apollo 1 astronauts died when a fire broke out in their spacecraft during a practice countdown.

The Challenger astronauts were killed when their shuttle exploded 73 seconds after lifting off from Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39B.

The crew included Christa McAuliffe, NASA's first "teacher-in-space."

The Columbia astronauts died when their spaceship broke apart over Texas during an ill-fated atmospheric reentry.

Also honored on the Space Mirror Memorial are Theodore Freeman, Charles Bassett, Elliott See and Clifton Williams, all of whom died in T-38 training jet accidents; Michael Adams, who died in an X-15 accident; Robert Lawrence, who died in a F-104 accident; and Manley "Sonny" Carter, who died in a commercial airline crash.

  • Video - Apollo 1: The Fire
  • Video - In Their Own Words...Remembering Columbia's Crew
  • Special Report: Space Shuttle Columbia Tragedy

Published under license from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright ? 2009 FLORIDA TODAY. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any way without the written consent of FLORIDA TODAY.