It was the most devastating tragedy for America's space program since the Challenger disaster. A year ago Sunday, the Columbia Shuttle broke apart during re-entry, killing all seven crewmembers.
NASA workers who launched the shuttle, volunteers who searched fields in Texas and Louisiana for the shuttle's remains, supporters and mourners gathered Sunday in Cape Canaveral, Florida to honor the astronauts.
Morning tributes were also held today in many of the East Texas towns where flaming wreckage fell. The space agency's remaining shuttle fleet is grounded while mandated safety changes are being implemented.
Here in the Capital City, a wreath stands at the Challenger Learning Center marking the loss of all 24 astronauts killed in the line of duty. Kurt Valle lives in Tallahassee- he says his son was born the same day the Challenger exploded in mid-air. He says both tragedies are still fresh in his mind.
“Felt it was a loss for the nation, for the world- it was really sad of course, the loss of lives and millions of dollars invested in that program,” said Valle. NASA has lost three spacecrafts since 1967, the Apollo 1, the Challenger, and most recently the Columbia.