Forever Remembered Exhibit, Kennedy Space Center
The first time I visited Kennedy Space Center this year I was so overwhelmed with seeing the Shuttle Atlantis that I failed to see the Forever Remembered Exhibit in the same building. This is an exhibit honoring and remembering the astronauts of the Shuttles Challenger and Columbia. Walking down the hall with the displays of each astronaut was very emotional. Each display had objects from the astronauts life, their hobbies and/or passions, along with a short bio and picture.
Walking down that hall didn’t prepare me for what I saw when I turned the corner. The two pictures below are the displays I encountered as I entered the room. The first is a section of the fuselage from the Shuttle Challenger. The second is of the window frames from the Shuttle Columbia. I was floored. It all hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t move. I just stood there in silence for what seemed like forever, the emotions from those two days flooding back to me.
I’m a child of the end of the Space Race. Sometimes I think I was born a little too late. I remember going down to the gym in school to watch the TV coverage of the lunar landings. Granted I am not quite old enough to remember the first from Apollo 11 but I remember the last few. I also remember the Apollo-Soyuz mission as well as Skylab.
I’m also the kid who was building model rockets and launching them into the sky out in the middle of the hay field. I followed the development of the shuttle and you could say I was obsessed with anything to do with space. I missed being in Florida for the first launch of Columbia in 1981 due to bronchial pneumonia. I was listening to the radio somewhere in Pennsylvania as my Mom drove us to Florida for spring break.
I also remember that awful day in January 1986 when Challenger exploded. I was a sophomore in college studying Aerospace Engineering. I just returned from class when everyone was talking about the accident. I didn’t believe them! I didn’t make it to any more classes that day. I sat on my bed watching the TV in complete disbelief.
The Columbia disaster hit me just as hard. Even though I was an “adult” with kids and a job, the kid in me was floored as I watched the news that Saturday morning in 2003. We left the TV all day. I guess those dreams of space never really leave you.
I know I will be going back to KSC. Visiting the center rekindled that passion I had as a kid. I look forward to what happens next at the center. The launch and landing by SpaceX of their Falcon 9 rocket was incredible. Yes, there were a few hiccups along the way, but you can’t deny the accomplishment! Hopefully next time I visit it will be for one of those launches.