High school robotics competition to honor Columbia crew on 16th anniv. of shuttle tragedy

The legacy of the STS-107 crew will be commemorated Friday with a memorial service and robotics...
The legacy of the STS-107 crew will be commemorated Friday with a memorial service and robotics competition in Hemphill. (Source: NASA)
Updated: Jan. 31, 2019 at 12:24 PM CST
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SABINE COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - 16 years after the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart over East Texas, high school students will pay tribute to the crew in a robotics competition designed to inspire young minds.

On Friday, the Patricia Huffman Smith NASA Museum in Hemphill will remember the seven astronauts who perished aboard STS-107 and the two volunteers who lost their lives in the recovery effort that followed.

A memorial service at the museum is set to begin at 7:45 a.m., followed by a moment of silence at the time NASA lost contact with the spacecraft in 2003.

Museum benefactor Al Smith, who passed away at the age of 91 last February, will be honored, as well as the widow of Columbia crew member Ilan Ramon. 54-year-old Rona Ramon lost her battle with cancer in December.

The 2nd annual Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial Robotics Competition will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the main gallery of the museum. Teams of students from area high schools will design and build robots in a simulated mission to explore the far side of the moon.

Teams have six hours to build and program robots using LEGO EV3 robotics kits before presenting their devices to a panel of judges including NASA engineers, local officials, and museum board members. The winning team will receive tickets to Space Center Houston.

Free admission will be offered all day at the museum, located at 375 Sabine Street in Hemphill.

Visitors can explore the main gallery, which highlights all 28 missions aboard Space Shuttle Columbia’s, as well as personal items donated by the families of the STS-107 crew. Displays also document the extensive search and recovery effort that followed Columbia’s final flight in 2003, including the involvement of thousands of East Texas volunteers.

The museum, which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., also features a large theater and a flight simulator, allowing visitors to experience a simulated shuttle landing.

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