NASA honors fallen astronauts, looks ahead to future exploration

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CAPE CANAVERAL. Fla. - Friday marked a somber week of anniversaries for the space coast.

In a wreath laying ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, NASA remembered the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia and all those who gave their lives to the space program.

“I think it's really important that we take time to pay respect to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in our quest to explore,” said Bob Cabana, director of the Kennedy Space Center.

Cabana led one of the “Day of Remembrance” ceremonies held Friday around the country to mark the anniversaries of three NASA tragedies: the Apollo fire of 1967, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, and the loss of Columbia in 2003.

“Men and women gave their lives so we could enjoy things sitting on our belt that enable us to keep in contact,” said visitor Bob Castro. “So occasionally, we need to stop and just pay homage to those who came before us and what they did.”

The ceremony comes as NASA looks ahead to a return to a manned spaceflight program with privately operates crew vehicles to low Earth orbit.