The failings of the human spaceflight team, which led to the loss of the Challenger and Columbia crews, must be lessons that are implemented every day, NASA space operations chief Bill Gerstenmaier said Jan 28 during a memorial service marking the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster.
“It’s not easy. The crews lost were my friends, my co-workers and I saw an engineering team that I love fail. After Challenger, I dedicated myself to never allowing another tragedy to occur; however, Columbia occurred. I failed and the team failed,” Gerstenmaier said.
“The human spaceflight team has learned tremendous lessons from these events. The ability to come back stronger from adversity gives me the strength to work with the teams and press on with new discoveries, see things like the International Space Station come to life.
“The legacy of those we have lost will be in the dedication to never repeat the mistakes and to learn from those mistakes and learn how to anticipate future problems that are not yet known,” Gerstenmaier added.
He urged the 250 people attending the ceremony, held at the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, as well as anyone watching the broadcast on NASA Television, to take the lessons learned to heart.
“Stop. Reflect on the events of the past. Digest. Analyze. Distill the real learning from these events. Tuck this away in your heart and use it every day in all that you are doing. Do not be afraid of failing. Do not foolishly press on, but rather rededicate yourselves to expanding the frontier of knowledge in a manner that is fitting of the huge sacrifice made by those who have gone before us.”