East Texans, NASA participate in opening of Columbia museum - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

East Texans, NASA participate in opening of Columbia museum

HEMPHILL, TX (KTRE) -

By Donna McCollum - email

HEMPHILL, TX (KTRE) – They all lost a loved one. The museum benefactor lost a wife to cancer. The families of the astronauts lost their loved ones in the space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. Yet this wasn't a day of sadness.

A museum dedication brings happiness and renews friendships.

"Looking at that kinda brings back the idea of what this community did for us when we first got here and searching with us," said Gerry Schumann, the former lead incident commander at NASA. "We walked side by side through those fields."

The museum skillfully shares the agonizing search for debris, but more importantly the mission to bring closure for seven astronaut families and two recovery team members. The widower of mission specialist Laurel Clark is forever grateful.

"There's a lot of emotional turmoil there and they shared such reverence and respect for our loved ones," Dr. Jon Clark said.

Family members share treasured items that once belonged to their loved one. Payload Commander Michael Anderson would want it that way, says his widow, Sandra.

"It's just well done," she said. "It's very beautiful. It's a very nice way to honor the Columbia crew and each individual member for their contribution."

Perhaps it will inspire another young person follow their dreams.

"We like to say space is the future," said Michael Coats, the NASA Johnson Space Center director. "Well, children are the future too. So getting children interested, especially in math, science and engineering."

The museum was making plans to expand even before the doors opened. Efforts are underway to complete a long distance learning center and a mini IMAX.

Remembering Columbia will be a lasting testimony to the individuals who used all their courage to cross the threshold of space.

Copyright 2011 KTRE. All rights reserved.

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