Three years to day after arriving in New York City for its public display, NASA's prototype space shuttle Enterprise on Monday (April 27) was dedicated to the astronauts who lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration.
Family members of the Apollo 1, Challenger STS-51L and Columbia STS-107 crews joined NASA officials aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for the dedication. The Intrepid, a converted World War 2 aircraft carrier, has been home to the Enterprise since 2012.
"It is our great privilege to stand alongside the families of the brave crew members of Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia as we dedicate space shuttle Enterprise to their heroism, vision, passion and sacrifice," Susan Marenoff-Zausner, the museum's president, said. "The spirit of the men and women of these missions will live on, right here, in this magnificent spacecraft and in the programs and exhibits it motivates, now and in the future." [Photos of Space Shuttle Enterprise in NYC]
Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee died Jan. 27, 1967, as a result of a fire engulfing their spacecraft during a test on the launch pad. The STS-51L crew, including Francis "Dick" Scobee, Mike Smith, Judy Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair, Greg Jarvis and Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe, were lost Jan. 28, 1986, when space shuttle Challenger broke apart soon after launching from Florida.
And on Feb. 1, 2003, the STS-107 crew of Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark, David Brown, and first Israeli in space Ilan Ramon died when the shuttle Columbia broke apart during reentry into the atmosphere after a 16-day science mission.
"It's an honor to be here to recognize the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia as we dedicate the space shuttle Enterprise in their honor," said Charles Bolden, the NASA Administrator and a former astronaut. "I thank the families of our fallen crewmates for joining us."
"Know that we will never forget your loved ones, and that we are building on their legacy even now to do the great things in the future toward which they strove," he said.
Participating in the dedication event were Lowell Grissom, the astronaut's brother, and June Scobee Rodgers, Evelyn Husband-Thompson and Rona Ramon, surviving spouses of Scobee, Husband, and Ramon.
Husband's daughter Laura and Ramon's son Tal each led their respective nation's anthem.
The ceremony, which also included a video message from the crew of the International Space Station, closed with astronaut Mike Massimino, the Intrepid museum's senior advisor for space programs, helping to reveal the wording of the dedication plaque:
"The prototype orbiter that paved the way for the space shuttle program dedicated April 27, 2015 in honor of the brave crews who served in the American space program and gave their lives in pursuit of knowledge, exploration and international cooperation."
Following the dedication, 200 middle school students from five New York City public schools showcased experiments they designed, one of which will be flown to the space station as part of the Intrepid International Space Station Challenge, a joint partnership between the museum, the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program and the Ramon Foundation, founded by Rona Ramon in honor of her late husband.
"Today's event truly represents the mission of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – to honor our past and inspire our future," Marenoff-Zausner said.
Enterprise was NASA's first orbiter, a prototype that never flew in space, but conducted critical approach and landing tests in 1977. Enterprise, as displayed inside the Intrepid's space shuttle pavilion on its flight deck, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
Click through to collectSPACE for more photos from the Intrepid's dedication of the space shuttle Enterprise.
- Remembering Challenger: NASA's 1st Shuttle Tragedy (Photos)
- Remembering the Apollo 1 Fire (Infographic)
- Final Voyage of Space Shuttle Enterprise (Photos)
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