NASA honors those lost during 2018 Day of Remembrance ceremony
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Once a year, generally on the last Thursday of January, the Astronauts Memorial Foundation welcomes the public to join assembled astronauts, family members and space program workers to remember the U.S. astronauts who lost their lives while serving on active duty. On Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 those lost were remembered and their sacrifice honored.
Held on the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, today’s NASA Day of Remembrance ceremony included an indoor component led by Thad Altman, President and CEO of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, as well as an outdoor wreath laying at the Space Mirror Memorial.
Following the Presentation of Colors by the Patrick Air Force Base Honor Guard and the playing of the U.S. National Anthem by Pri Thakrar and Josh Johnson, two engineers from Kennedy Space Center, retired NASA astronaut Eileen Collins shared some opening remarks and invited a number of esteemed guests to be recognized.
In addition to such highly-recognizable attendees as Dr. Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 fame, today’s ceremony also included a number of family members of those lost, including Karen Stevenson, daughter of Charles A. Bassett, II, Sally Kneuven, daughter of Elliot M See, Jr., Beth Williams, widow of Clifton C. Williams, Brent Adams, son of Michael J. Adams and Tal Ramon, son of Ilan Ramon – the first Israeli astronaut and lost crew member of STS-107 (Ramon flew on Space Shuttle Columbia which was lost 15 years ago this February).
Through the sharing of each family member’s personal memories, those assembled were welcomed into the homes, the lives and the dreams of the families of those impacted by the loss of each astronaut. One such instance was when Beth Williams spoke of her husband who she recalled finding in the garage one day, and she asked him “What are you doing?,” to which he replied “I’ve polished my brown shoes and I am polishing the brass.” She then asked, “but why – you don’t wear those uniforms anymore?” to which he replied, “it’s respect for the uniform.” – and he’d keep it up, going out to the garage once a month to keep these things up. He loved being a marine, but boy did he also love being an astronaut.”
Tal Ramon, an accomplished musician who flew to the Space Coast from his home in Israel for today’s ceremony, performed two touching songs, one on either side of his spoken memories, reflecting on the connection he was able to make with his lost father upon returning home following Columbia’s break up and finding his father’s piano sitting before him, silenced.
Under a light layer of clouds and with a cool breeze blowing, the ceremony proceeded outside for the laying of the wreath and the personal presentation of flowers along the receiving fence in front of the Space Mirror. As the formal ceremony concluded, touching conversations followed – family members sought out and thanked NASA program workers who had been a part of their loved one’s lives, while community members reflected with each other about what the sacrifice of those brave men and women meant and continues to mean to them.
Sean Costello is a technology professional who also researches, writes about and speaks publicly on the inspiring lessons within international space flight program. Prior to joining SpaceFlight Insider in early 2014, Costello was a freelance photographer and correspondent covering shuttle-era Kennedy Space Center launches for various radio and print news organizations.