On February 1, 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed in a disaster that claimed the lives of all seven of its crew.
While February 1 was an occasion for mourning, the efforts that ensued can be a source of national pride. NASA publicly and forthrightly informed the nation about the accident and all the associated information that became available. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board was established within two hours of the loss of signal from the returning spacecraft in accordance with procedures established by NASA following the Challenger accident 17 years earlier.
The crew members lost that morning were explorers in the finest tradition, and since then, everyone associated with the Accident Review Board has felt that we were laboring in their legacy.
When itʼs dark, the stars come out … The same is true with people. When the tragedies of life turn a bright day into a frightening night, Godʼs stars come out and these stars are families who say although we grieve deeply as do the families of Apollo 1 and Challenger before us, the bold exploration of space must go on. These stars are the leaders in Government and in NASA who will not let the vision die. These stars are the next generation of astronauts, who like the prophets of old said, “Here am I, send me.”
– Brig. Gen. Charles Baldwin, STS-107 Memorial
Ceremony at the National Cathedral, February 6, 2003