(This is a short speech delivered by Sy Liebergot during Astronaut Remembrance Week at the Museum of Flight on January 27, 2004.)
It’s an honor to speak to you today as a guest of your city’s incredible Museum of Flight.
This week has been dedicated to be a time of remembrance of our fallen astronauts. There have been seventeen brave souls who paid the ultimate price to advance humankind’s venture into space.
Let me quote some words from a speech President G.W. Bush gave regarding the loss of the Columbia astronauts. I believe they apply equally to all of our astronaut losses. He said, in part:
“The loss was sudden and terrible, and for their families, the grief is heavy. Our nation shares in your sorrow and in your pride. And today we remember not only one moment of tragedy, but seven lives of great purpose and achievement. To leave behind Earth and air and gravity is an ancient dream of humanity. For these seven, it was a dream fulfilled. Each of these astronauts had the daring and discipline required of their calling. Each of them knew that great endeavors are inseparable from great risks. And each of them accepted those risks willingly, even joyfully, in the cause of discovery.”
We remember the Apollo 1 space crew, Flight Commander Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, who were killed in a flash fire in the Command Module on January 27, 1967, during their participation in a rehearsal for the launch of the first manned Apollo mission.
We remember the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51L); Commander Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judy Resnick, Ellison Onizuka, Ron McNair, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe. They died tragically in the explosion of their spacecraft during launch on January 28, 1986. The explosion occurred 73 seconds into the flight as a result of a leak in one of the two solid rock boosters that ignited the external main liquid fuel tank.
We remember the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107): Commander Rick Husband, David Brown, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Willie McCool and Ilan Ramon. They were lost when Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry on February 1, 2003, due to a breech in the left wing caused by the 545 mph impact of a 1.7 pound piece of the external tank insulation foam that broke off during launch.
Sad as these losses have been, they have not been without purpose as they have taught harsh lessons of the risk of exploring a new frontier and allowed us to learn lessons that will make space travel safer as we now make plans to return humans to the Moon—from there, venture landing people on Mars.
The Friendswood Public Library welcomes Sy Liebergot, Apollo era former EECOM Flight Controller, on Wednesday, February 6 at 7pm, as he speaks about his experience as a front-line Flight Controller during the Apollo 13 mission.