KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – On Thursday NASA remembered the astronauts and astronaut candidates who died in service to U.S. space exploration.
NASA’s annual Day of Remembrance service was held at the Space Mirror Memorial at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. While the event is only for invited guests, the public will be able to visit the Space Mirror later in the day to pay their respects.
NASA’s Day of Remembrance honors the lives of two dozen people, including the crews of three space missions, as well as astronaut candidates who died in accidents.
The memorial service takes place on the 55th anniversary of the Apollo 1 accident. The first manned mission for the U.S. Apollo program was supposed to launch on Feb. 21, 1967 with a low Earth orbit test.
On Jan. 27, 1967, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee were taking part in a launch rehearsal test when there was a cabin fire that killed the three men and destroyed the command module.
The service also honors the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger STS-51L mission, which exploded on launch on Jan. 28, 1986, killing the seven-member crew, and the crew of Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107, which broke upon its return to Earth on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board.
All of the names of the dead are engraved on the Space Mirror Memorial, a black granite wall that is always lit – a reminder that space exploration is sometimes a dangerous business.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex also has memorials to the crews of the three astronaut missions. Forever Remembered is a memorial exhibit for the crews of space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, while Ad Astra Per Aspera is a memorial exhibit for the Apollo 1 crew. All of the memorials have personal items and recovered hardware from the vehicles.
Learn about all of the fallen astronauts and astronaut candidates in the timeline below.