Today we remember the seven astronauts who lost their lives 10 years ago when Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. The mission was 16 short minutes from landing safely at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Many in Texas recall hearing the explosion and seeing the white line of destruction cut across the clear, blue sky. I remember the tragedy vividly. As a state senator, I spent much of the days and weeks following Feb. 1, 2003 in East Texas (photo lower left) mourning the lives of the Columbia crew and working with volunteers and state, local and federal officials to facilitate recovery and search for answers.
As they did 10 years ago, my heart and prayers still go out to NASA and the families and friends who continue to mourn the loss of the Columbia crew. Those seven astronauts, like the ones before and after, were pioneers who inspired us all.
As we remember the tragedy of a decade ago, I’d like to also thank the men and women of the space program for their courage, ingenuity and patriotism. Though today the space shuttle program is shuttered, I hope the mystery and adventure of space will continue to inspire future generations to reach for the stars.