DOWNEY – Downey’s Columbia Memorial Space Center (CMSC) hosted an astronaut commemoration on Saturday in honor of the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia disasters. The anniversaries of each event fall on January 27th, 28th, and February 1st respectively, with 2016 being the 30th anniversary of the Challenger.
Admission was free of charge all day.
Children and adults alike were invited to interact with CMSC’s usual exhibits and activities, as well as special commemorative demonstrations presented by space center staff. Screenings of Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars were also held, and were hosted by the film’s directors Rene Sotile and Mary Jo Godges. Meteorite expert David Pinsky was also on hand showing off his meteorite collection.
The event officially kicked off around 11:30 with an opening ceremony involving several speakers and a moment of silence. Speakers included CMSC President and Executive Director Benjamin Dickow, Mayor of Cudahy Christian Markovich, and film directors Sotile and Godges.
During his speech, Mayor Markovich stressed the importance of the American spirit.
“Probably the most valuable resource that this country has is American courage, and our sense of adventure and our spirit of discovery,” said Markovich.
During the opening ceremony, audience members were encouraged to share where they were during the Challenger explosion, and their thoughts on the tragedy.
“I was a senior in high school,” said attendee Robert Overmyer of Carson. “I had just came out of my government class and was walking down the library to go watch the launch. Of course we all know what happened; it was very tragic. I had dreams and aspirations of being an astronaut, and it was very crushing. You look at the sacrifices these people made… I think that’s what our country is really about: the human spirit of exploration.”
Two days prior to the event, CMSC also held a ceremony where they unveiled a portrait of the Challenger crew. Dickow believes that the portrait makes an excellent and important new addition to the space center.
“As we’re getting farther and farther away from that disaster…I think it’s really important that any generation that comes through here knows that there are people behind that. That mission in particular was about education, which is what the mission of this place is.”
For more information on the Columbia Memorial Space Center and all their future events, visit their website at columbiaspacescience.org.