Texas A&M students from Tyler participate in NASA astronaut remembrance
HOUSTON, Texas (KLTV) - The lives of fallen astronauts and others killed in the pursuit of space exploration are being honored at NASA facilities around the country Thursday as part of the agency’s annual Day of Remembrance.
The crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia are the most prominent of the missions recognized by the observance.
At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the morning began with NASA employees and families pausing for a moment of silence in the Astronaut Memorial Grove. Agency administrators delivered remarks before flyover featuring the T-38, a training jet used by astronauts.
Taps was performed by by members of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets Squadron 17, also known as the “Challenger 17.” The all-male outfit was founded in 1992 as a living memorial to the Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts who died after liftoff in January 1986.
Each year, the squadron also performs “Echo Taps” on campus in College Station as part of their tribute to their namesake.
Five students from Tyler are members of the Challenger 17, including seniors Nathan Drain and Marty Foster, juniors Josh Glenney and Joseph Spitzer, and sophomore Gabe Schuricht.
“All members of Squadron 17 strive to emulate the values that each of the different astronauts represent,” Schuricht said. “Our ultimate goal is to keep their memory alive in our daily lives; whether it be leadership, perseverance, selfless service, or any other attribute the Challenger astronauts represented.”
Glenney and Schuricht participated in Thursday’s observance at Johnson Space Center.
“I am inspired daily by those heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice expanding mankind’s horizons, and it is an honor to a part of an outfit in the Corps which prides itself so much in what the Challengers mean to us.”
Later in the day, the group toured Space Center Houston.
According to a 2022 article in Roundup, the newsletter of Johnson Space Center (JSC), a group of NASA employees also make an annual trip to Texas A&M to watch the squadron’s ceremony on campus.
The Challenger 17 have even garnered the attention of Shuttle Challenger families. According to the Roundup, the wife of a JSC security police officer is married to the daughter of Lorna Onizuka and astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who was killed in the Challenger explosion. They made their first trip to College Station last year, the article stated.
Thursday’s observance at Johnson Space Center also included a panel discussion about the lessons learned from the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident. Next week, many of these NASA employees and contractors will take part in a three-day observance planned in Hemphill to mark the 20th anniversary of the STS-107 tragedy.
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