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Sun, Apr 15, 2007

Aerospace Site To Memorialize Space Shuttle Columbia Crew

Seven American Heroes Who Gave Their Lives For Space Exploration

The town of Downey, CA and Tower General Contractors hosted the April 12 groundbreaking of the $12 million Columbia Space Science Learning Center and park on a 13-acre site. NASA and the City of Downey are financially supporting the project, reports the Associated Press.

The Center is being built as a memorial to the crewmembers of Space Shuttle Columbia who gave their lives for space exploration on February 1, 2003, the day the Columbia shuttle made an uncontrolled reentry to the earth's atmosphere.

All seven crew members lost their lives, including: Rick D. Husband, Commander; William C. McCool, Pilot; Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander; David M. Brown, Mission Specialist 1; Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 2; Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Mission Specialist 4; and Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist.

Among the speakers who made the event possible are California Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, responsible for the passage of a measure to name and fund the Space Science Learning Center in Downey; Dr. Jonathan Clark (shown below), husband to late NASA astronaut Laurel Clark, representing the crewmembers' families; Mayor Rick Trejo of the City of Downey; Nato Flores and Alex Guerrero, president and executive vice president, respectively, of Tower General Contractors, the construction company building the Center.

"The groundbreaking for the Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center is another significant step toward fulfilling a dream for the City of Downey," said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who represents Downey, and authored 2004 legislation to name the center as a memorial to the seven Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts.

"Thanks to the tremendous vision of many community leaders, including former Congressman Steve Horn, the center will provide a fitting tribute to the Columbia astronauts. The Learning Center will also celebrate the legacy of the many local employees who helped to build the shuttle fleet at the former Rockwell International plant by educating future generations about our country's historic advances in space exploration."

Said Dr. Jonathan Clark, president of the Space Medicine Association, in a statement on behalf of the families of Space Shuttle Columbia, "The families of the fallen astronauts of Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 are proud to support the Columbia Space Science Learning Center being dedicated in Downey, CA. The enduring legacy of space education will be a fitting tribute to the sacrifice of the Columbia crew. This center will no doubt provide the next generation the inspiration to live their dreams and continue in the footsteps of those before them on their journey to the stars."

The Columbia families say the Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center is especially appropriate because the astronauts spent 16 days in orbit conducting science experiments. Shuttle flights since have focused on completing construction of the International Space Station.

The leaders of the Center have a major educational goal: to enhance space science knowledge and scientific literacy. The Center is slated for completion on February 1, 2008, the fifth anniversary of the tragedy.

Although the new park will serve local residents, the Learning Center will attract visitors from throughout the southern California area.

Said Mayor Trejo, "The Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center honors and promotes the legacy of America's aerospace program in Downey and Southern California: the spirit of creativity and invention that has made possible human exploration beyond the surface of Earth."

He added, "Through interactive educational programs and exhibits and unique historical resources, the center will provide experiences which inspire people of all ages to enhance their understanding of space related sciences, to recognize the value of technologies developed through the space program, and to engage in the exploration of our Earth and the universe beyond."

Alex Guerrero, executive vice president of Tower General Contractors, said, "We are delighted to have been selected to build this distinguished Memorial that stands as a living tribute for those who gave their lives for the advancement of the next generation of astronauts."

The 18,000-square feet facility will include active learning experiences that will educate students on various aspects of aerospace, including The Challenger Learning Center, which will feature a simulated space mission that will test the participant's decision-making skills.

The center will also include a Space Science Discovery Zone where visitors will find a variety of interactive exhibits that help them explore principles of flight, living in space, the search for life beyond earth, and the origins of the universe. The Mars Robotics Lab will allow young visitors the opportunity to design and program their own robots in order to complete a remote exploration mission to the planet Mars.

Historical displays will tell the stories of the men and women who contributed to the spirit of invention and innovation that led to the development of the aviation and aerospace industry in Downey, Southern California, and propelled the US to a leadership role in space exploration.

The former Downey complex, 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, opened in 1929, when a section of ranch land was converted into an airport and aircraft manufacturing facility. For the next seventy years the site and facilities continued to be developed, expanded, and utilized for aircraft manufacture, missile design and development, and ultimately, the design and production of Apollo command and service modules during the lunar program and development and production of the Space Shuttle Orbiters. The 160-acre complex closed in 1999.

FMI: www.columbiaspacescience.org, www.towergeneralcontractors.com, www.nasa.gov

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