U.S. Space & Rocket Center marks Challenger anniversary with message of hope

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Schools and businesses in Huntsville held events on Thursday to mark the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster.  One local event was held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Rocket center workers, guests and space campers gathered to remember one of NASA's darkest days under the shadow of the Space Shuttle Pathfinder.

"The astronauts that we remember today were not just astronauts for NASA, they were America's astronauts," said Todd May.

"Seven extraordinary men and women died because those who held responsibility for their lives, did not fully understand their vehicle," said Homer Hickam, renowned author and retired NASA aerospace engineer.

While the occasion was somber and the tone was solemn, speakers urged us to never forget the moments but to also look ahead.

"I came home, here to Huntsville, home to Marshall Space Center, home to a shaken agency, a shaken country, and a shaken dream," said Hickam.  He reminded the crowd that if the Marshall Space Flight Center had not pushed forward after the Challenger disaster, there would have been no Hubble telescope... Space Lab missions or the International Space Station.

Space Camp students stretch their arms in the form of wings to honor the Challenger astronauts. (Photo: Chris Davis/WHNT News 19)

Space Camp students stretch their arms in the form of wings to honor the Challenger astronauts. (Photo: Chris Davis/WHNT News 19)

When the clock hit 10:38 a.m. to mark 30 years since the disaster, Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center challenged everyone to keep their wings outstretched, never stop learning and keep their eyes to the sky.

"I'd love to be an astronaut and be the first person on Mars," said Diego Perez, one of the space campers in attendance.

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