Historically, the beginning of the year has not been kind to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and January 28 is now known as NASA’s Day of Remembrance in honor of the brave men and women who have lost their lives in pursuit of space exploration. The 3-man crew of Apollo 1 perished in a fire while trapped inside their capsule in 1967 while training for the first Apollo mission. Nineteen years later, the world watched helplessly as the Space Shuttler Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center. Then in 2003, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Columbia disintegrated over the United States on re-entry while preparing to return to earth.

I’m reminded of an instructor who always says that the safest way to operate an airplane is to lock it up inside the hangar and throw away the key. While said tongue-in-cheek, it speaks truth about the world of aviation. In general, flying is not without its perils, but when you design vehicles that leave the earth’s atmosphere the risk rises exponentially. Numerous safeguards are in place to mitigate or altogether eliminate risk, but accidents do happen and tragedies do occur. Yet, there is almost always something to be learned from each tragedy and that has been the impetus of a great many safety enhancements in aviation from the very beginning of manned flight.

But today is about remembering, and NASA chose former President Ronald Reagan’s poignant words following the Challenger disaster: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'” NASA has shared these videos in honor of the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia crews. Please take a moment and join us in remembrance.

Blue skies, all.

(Featured Image: Space Station Expedition 22 Crew, NASA)