CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The seven astronauts lost in the shuttle Columbia accident 10 years ago were remembered Friday as brave adventurers who advanced the exploration of space.
Photos: Remembering Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy
Hundreds of people flocked to the Space Mirror Memorial at Kennedy Space Center to pay tribute to the other 17 astronauts and pilots who also gave the ultimate sacrifice to venture beyond the grasp of Earth's atmosphere. Those include personnel that perished in the 1986 Challenger explosion and the 1967 Apollo 1 cabin fire.
Evelyn Husband-Thompson, widow of Columbia commander Rick Husband, recalled the "traumatic, shocking" day on on Feb. 1, 2003, that crushed the Columbia family members, many of whom were awaiting Columbia's return at the KSC shuttle runway when the spaceship disintegrated over east Texas during an ill-fated atmospheric re-entry.
"We were jolted in the viewing area into a nightmarish stroll of fear, uncertainty and horror that led to a crushing announcement that the crew had perished during re-entry," Husband-Thompson said.
"Words of sorrow, efforts to comfort, even fathoming the magnitude of loss was overwhelming that day. Looks of disbelief from one family member to another brought little comfort. The shock was so intense that even tears were not freely able to fall. They would come in the days, weeks and months to follow in waves and in buckets."
Lost along with Husband were pilot Willie McCool, Payload Commander Michael Anderson, Mission Specialist David Brown, Laurel Clark and Kalpana Chawla, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli to fly in space.
"Their lives were exciting and dramatic. It takes your breath away to think about what they had done in their lives. They are adventurers, explorers and role models. How fortunate they were to have the opportunity to experience a whole new world," said former U.S. astronaut Eileen Collins, who commanded NASA's post-Columbia Return-To-Flight mission in 2005.
"To our friends from mission STS-107, here we are 10 years later, we still love you, we still miss you -- how can we ever thank you for your contribution to the great journey of human discovery?"
Then Collins quoted from one of Rick Husband's favorite Bible verses: "Proverbs Chapter Three, Verse 5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."
By Todd Halvorson