Seven American Heroes Who Gave Their Lives For Space
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
"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
"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
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
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.