February 1st is the 15th anniversary of the failed re-entry of the Space Shuttle Columbia. On Feb. 1, 2003, space shuttle Columbia broke up as it returned to Earth, killing the seven astronauts on board. NASA suspended space shuttle flights for more than two years as it investigated the disaster.
Last Sunday marked the 32nd anniversary of the Space Challenger disaster. On January 28th, 1986, as an estimated 17% of the entire nation was watching live, the shuttle lifted off from Cape Canaveral and, 73 seconds later, exploded nine miles over the Atlantic Ocean. All seven crew members were killed.
Following the tragedies NASA conducted a robust after actions reviews, made hundreds of changes to improve safety, and, perhaps most importantly, changed their safety culture.
Speaking to the lessons of Challenger, Roger Launius, associate director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., said NASA’s aura of invincibility collapsed with the disaster. “Hubris is always a problem and every Greek tragedy is built around that,” Launius said. “It was valid 2,000 years ago and it’s still valid today.” In 2014, the Kennedy Space Center started off “Apollo, Challenger, Columbia Lessons Learned,” a program that targets the emerging space industry with education related to the disasters to help these new companies get before “X.”
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”