NASA remembers fallen astronauts

Wreath-laying ceremony held at the Space Mirror Memorial

By Justin Warmoth - Anchor, Ashleigh Coran - Executive Producer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Twenty-nine years ago Wednesday Space Shuttle Challenger blasted off. 

The awe Americans felt as the shuttle roared into the sky quickly turned to shock when something went horribly wrong. 

Challenger exploded -- killing the seven astronauts onboard. 

Seventeen astronauts have died in the three tragedies in a nearly 50-year span and Wednesday NASA remembered them at their annual Day of Remembrance ceremony. ?

Wednesday morning the Challenger crew, along with Apollo 1 and Space Shuttle Columbia crews, were remembered as a wreath was placed at the foot of the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. 

"We use this day to reflect and remember our fallen heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice -- their lives," said Janet Petro, KSC's deputy director. "But also to reflect the hard lessons that we've learned in the spirit of space exploration." 

Guests at Wednesday's ceremony, which included dozens of Kennedy Space Center employees and visitors, placed flowers on the white fence fronting the mirror and bowed their heads in reflection. 

Senator Thad Altman, who heads the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, joined Petro in laying the wreath. 

"We remember the sacrifices. We remember the tragedy. It's a day that we also renew our commitment," said Altman. "We know that human spaceflight is not without risks and there will be accidents, but we should not let that discourage us." 

Wednesday's ceremony on the Space Coast happened simultaneously with others around the country, including at Arlington National Cemetery, where NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden laid a wreath as well. 

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