It’s a week of sad anniversaries in the history of space exploration.
On 27th January 1967, three astronauts were killed when they were trapped inside the Apollo 1 command module as it caught fire during a test.
On 28th January 1986, seven astronauts were killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff.
On 1st February 2003, another seven astronauts died when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry.
The pictures come from the Astronaut Memorial at the Kennedy Space Centre – a large square bearing the names of these astronauts and others. It’s set a little way away from the main visitor complex with its constantly playing background music – maybe I was just there on the right day, but it was quiet and sombre, pretty much how such a memorial should be.
It’s not something you forget in a hurry – and we should never forget these astronauts. We need to make sure that we learn from the mistakes that led to these losses as the manned exploration of space continues – which it must, as Phil Plait expresses better than I ever could here.
“If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.” – Gus Grissom, 1965