SABINE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - It was exactly 12 years ago Sunday that the Columbia shuttle disintegrated over East Texas. Sunday morning, the Patricia Huffman Smith NASA Museum in Hemphill paid tribute to the astronauts that lost their life in the Columbia disaster.
Around 7:45 a.m., balloons were released in memory of Columbia's crew: Richard D. Husband, William C. McCool, David N. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael P. Anderson, Laurel B. Clark, Ilan Ramon. Two more balloons were released for Charles Krenek and Jules F. Mier Jr., volunteers who died in the recovery effort.
On January 16, 2003, the Columbia Space Transportation System 107 was launched in space.
Rebecca Tatum is the curator of the museum and said the mission was for the astronauts to conduct a series of experiments.
"The astronauts had 80 experiments that were assigned to complete," Tatum said.
On Feburary 1st, 2003 around 7:45 a.m., the Columbia STS broke apart while re-entering the atmosphere, killing all seven crew members on board. Pieces from the shuttle were found all over East Texas. Tatum said interestingly all 80 experiments were found intact.
"The cabin forward was found here in Hemphill including all seven astronauts," Tatum said.
Over the years, the museum has served as memorial for the families, which Tatum said is something the community of Hemphill takes great pride in.
To keep the memories of the astronauts alive, the families donated several personal artifacts.
"Kalpana Chawla's mother donated a dress that she made. This particular piece was requested by the Smithsonian, but KC mother said no it's staying here," Tatum said.
This is just one of the many stories that can be heard behind the museum walls.
Tatum said that the Columbia STS played an important part in science research and history. It was the first shuttle to be launched in space and completed 28 missions before perishing.
For more information on the museum visit: http://nasacolumbiamuseum.com/