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New NASA video honors fallen astronauts of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia

NASA released a new video today (Jan. 27) to remember the three crews and other fallen astronauts who lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration.

The agency's annual "Day of Remembrance" falls this year on the 55th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire of Jan. 27, 1967. The week that follows includes two other somber anniversaries mentioned in the video: the Challenger shuttle disaster of Jan. 28, 1986 and the Columbia shuttle accident of Feb. 1, 2003. 

"Apollo 1 was, without doubt, a terrible tragedy," Brian Odom, NASA's acting chief historian, said in the video. "We remember the loss of those lives. We don't stop our quest. We don't stop our mission, but we continue to move forward in that mission of scientific discovery."

Additionally, the video includes archival footage from two presidential speeches in honor of the lost space shuttle crews, each delivered hours after the flights concluded: Ronald Reagan, who spoke about Challenger's flight in 1986, and George W. Bush, who spoke about Columbia's flight in 2003.

Video: NASA remembers fallen astronauts on 55th Apollo 1 anniversary
NASA's fallen astronauts: a photo memorial

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Flowers placed before the Space Mirror Memorial mark NASA’s Day of Remembrance at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Jan. 28, 2021. The mirror was dedicated in 1991 to honor all astronauts who lost their lives on missions or during training.

Flowers placed before the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex mark NASA's Day of Remembrance, on Jan. 28, 2021. The mirror was dedicated in 1991 to honor the astronauts who lost their lives on the job. (Image credit: Kim Shiflett/NASA)
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The Apollo 1 crew, from left to right, Roger Chaffee, Ed White and Gus Grissom.

The Apollo 1 crew, from left to right: NASA astronauts Roger Chaffee, Ed White and Gus Grissom. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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On Jan. 28, 1986, NASA faced its first shuttle disaster, the loss of the Challenger orbiter and its seven-astronaut crew. Here, Challenger's last crew – members of the STS-51L mission – stand in the White Room at Pad 39B following the end of a launch dress rehearsal. They are (L to R) Teacher in Space Participant, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist, Gregory Jarvis, Mission Specialist, Judy Resnik, Commander Dick Scobee. Mission Specialist, Ronald McNair, Pilot, Michael Smith and Mission Specialist, Ellison Onizuka.

The Space Shuttle Challenger's last crew, members of the STS-51L mission, stand in the White Room at Pad 39B following the end of a launch dress rehearsal. From left: Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judy Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Michael Smith and Ellison Onizuka. (Image credit: NASA)
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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.

An official STS-107 crew portrait. From left: David Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, William McCool and Ilan Ramon. (Image credit: NASA)

"On this 55th anniversary, NASA remembers the Apollo 1 crew and all who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery," NASA stated in the video's introduction.

The agency is holding ceremonies Thursday at centers across the United States in commemoration of the fallen crews. The ceremonies are closed to the media and public due to the coronavirus pandemic, but NASA is posting footage of most of the commemorations online.

The Day of Remembrance falls during late January or early February every year because the three accidents all occurred between Jan. 27 and Feb. 1, in their respective years. Each of the incidents prompted a NASA investigation and a change in safety practices to address the causes.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.