Today, NASA and our nation take a step toward the future by honoring our past.
The story of humans in space is more than 50 years old, and a major part of that exploration was our incredible flagship Space Shuttle Program. It’s now time to tell the full scope of the shuttle’s achievements; of the men and women who made the program great; and the sacrifices of those who lost their lives to push the boundaries of human achievement.

NASA and the families of the STS-51L (Challenger) and STS-107 (Columbia) astronauts want the stories of these crews’ accomplishments and sacrifices to be told in a meaningful and personal way in the context of the entire program’s legacy. We have done that, and today I have the privilege of visiting the new Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex memorial “Forever Remembered” with the families of our Challenger and Columbia crews.

It’s an emotional experience to see the faces of our friends again and to feel the pride in their accomplishments and the sadness we still keenly feel at their loss. It’s also a testament to our will to persevere and overcome obstacles so that the tragedies of Challenger and Columbia meant not an end to exploration, but a path to learn and become safer as we continue striving to reach higher and go farther.

The memorial also honors the people who served in the Space Shuttle Program throughout its rich history the astronauts, the workforce that cared so diligently for the shuttles, those who rose to the challenge of Return to Flight twice and solved the problems so missions could continue and the communities that recovered our lost shuttles.

We stand on the shoulders of the men and women of Challenger and Columbia. Each of them is honored individually in the exhibit, and we will never forget them:

Francis R. Scobee
Michael J. Smith
Ellison S. Onizuka
Judith A. Resnick
Ronald E. McNair
Gregory Jarvis
Sharon Christa McAuliffe
Rick D. Husband
William C. McCool
Michael P. Anderson
Kalpana Chawla
David M. Brown
Laurel B. Clark
Ilan Ramon

This exhibition has the full participation of the astronauts’ families. It shares with everyone some of the most poignant and difficult artifacts of our history. But ultimately, it’s a story of hope, because these astronauts were dreaming of the future that each of you is helping us unfold today on our journey to Mars. Generations of people around the world will learn who these brave astronauts were and how their legacies live on through their missions and the charitable initiatives undertaken by their families.

Whether you were part of the NASA Family during the aftermath of these tragedies or not, the legacy is something we all share and honor as we strive to create the brighter tomorrow toward which their lives pointed us.

I encourage everyone to visit this exhibit and to share your stories and memories of these astronauts and the struggle we all endure eternally to change and grow and reach for the stars.

I thank the families for sharing their loved ones with us and for allowing us to remember them in this way.

Godspeed to all our fallen colleagues and to all of you.

Charlie B.