January 26, 2018 – The University of Colorado Boulder will honor its fallen astronauts this weekend. The annual memorial event will take place at 9:38 a.m. Sunday, January 28, to coincide with the exact anniversary of the Challenger disaster.
The public is invited to attend the observance, which will begin in front of the Regent Center on the Regent Drive side. Air Force ROTC cadets will be conducting a silent march from there to the Columbia and Challenger memorials in Kittredge and to Col. Ellison Onizuka’s plaque by the Engineering Center, where a rose will be placed for each member of the Challenger and Columbia shuttle crews.
Crew members of the Challenger were lost on January 28, 1986 when a booster engine failed, causing the Shuttle Challenger to break apart just 73 seconds after launch. The seven crew members – Commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka and Ronald E. McNair and Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis and Teacher-in-Space Payload Specialist Christa McAuliffe – were part of the first Teacher in Space Project. The NASA program, announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, was designed to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in math, science and space exploration. Onizuka received his bachelor’s and masters’ degree from the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences (AES) in 1969.
There were several CU-Boulder payloads and experiments on Challenger, including the Spartan Halley satellite that was to be released from the shuttle to gather data on the legendary comet and a sophisticated camera system to image the comet from inside the space vehicle.
Recently, NASA announced that several of the lessons Christa McAuliffe planned to perform aboard the Challenger shuttle during the Teacher in Space mission will be completed aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this year.
Columbia and its crew were lost during STS-107 in 2003. As the Space Shuttle lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 16, a small portion of foam broke away from the orange external fuel tank and struck the orbiter’s left wing. The resulting damage created a hole in the wing’s leading edge, which caused the vehicle to break apart during reentry to Earth’s atmosphere on February 1. Columbia’s crew members – Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon – perished prior to the scheduled touchdown. Kaplana Chawla, of the Columbia, earned her PhD from CU Boulder in 1998.