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NASA Remembers Its Own While Looking to the Future

NASA Remembers Its Own While Looking to the Future
The STS-107 crew. Front from left: Rick Husband William McCool. Standing from left: David Brown, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla and Michael Anderson and Ilan Ramon.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe will host today's Day of Remembrance ceremony on NASA TV starting at 2:00 p.m. EST.

"It gives us an opportunity for us to look back and honor these people," said NASA's Lynn Cline, deputy associate administrator for space operations at the agency's Washington D.C. headquarters, in a telephone interview. "But it's also a very important to move forward, to return the space shuttle to flight and complete the International Space Station."

No NASA shuttles have flown since the loss of Columbia, though shuttle managers, engineers and astronauts are working to resume flights with the Discovery orbiter and STS-114, currently slated for a May 2005 launch.

"We really want to get the ball rolling again," said astronaut Jim Kelly, shuttle pilot for the planned STS-114 mission, during televised interviews with reporters this week. "Right now, that [May 2005] timeframe is looking pretty good."

 Not just for astronauts

In addition to the lost Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia crews, NASA has lost other astronauts in training accidents and aircraft crashes.

But NASA has also lost ground personnel too. This year, the space agency plans to memorialize the loss of three employees of its Jet Propulsion Laboratory who died in an automobile accident in December 2004.

"It's not just about astronauts," Kennedy told, adding that, in one accident NASA did lose several shuttle technicians who asphyxiated in the aft compartment of an orbiter. "They sacrificed so others could explore."

Maintenance accidents have also claimed the lives of workers supporting NASA launch pads.

NASA officials said that it is imperative the agency continue to press forward shuttle flights and working toward President George W. Bush's vision of returning human explorers to the moon and lofting them onward to Mars.

"It's a very challenging objective to be able to launch people into space," Kennedy said. "Yes, we've lost people on the way, but nobody ever said this would be easy and I'm proud the agency pauses at least once a year to honor them."

             Fixing NASA: Continuing Coverage of the Space Shuttle Return to Flight

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.