February 1, 2003
Shortly before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members aboard. At that moment, Sandy Green, director of the Pineapple Gold Club at Franklin Synergy Bank in Franklin, Tennessee, was attending the Bank Travel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Mac Lacy came to the podium to make an announcement,” Green said. “It appeared he was having difficulty choosing his words when he told us about the tragedy. I can still picture him, and I can still remember where I was sitting in the room.”
The tragedy and triumphs of America’s space exploration have offered many memorable moments in our lives, including man’s landing on the moon and the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Those events and so many more are given tribute at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Titusville, Florida.
Visitors see many rockets that put Americans and satellites in space; a fully restored Saturn V rocket once destined for Apollo missions to the moon; the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which is home to the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia; two Imax movies, in which spaceflight comes alive; and the granite Astronaut Memorial, where the names are carved of the 24 U.S. astronauts who lost their lives for space exploration.
And new in 2013 is the arrival of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, one of the three remaining shuttles.
“More than 20 organizations were interested in having one of the three orbiters,” said Andrea Farmer, public relations spokesperson for the Kennedy Space Center.
Atlantis’ home is a 109,000-square-foot building where visitors interact with 60 displays and a simulator that replicates the experience of space travel aboard a shuttle. The star of the show is, of course, the Atlantis.
“When the doors finally open to where the shuttle is hanging, tilted at an angle as if it was in flight and giving the audience the view they had from the International Space Center, the response is wrenching,” said Farmer. “There are clappers, criers and enthusiasts.”
“When you have lived your life holding your breath at every shuttle launch and return as many Americans have, this sight takes your breath away.”