- Press Release
- August 12, 2022
Asteroids Dedicated to NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia Crew
The final crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia was
memorialized in the cosmos as seven asteroids orbiting the
sun between Mars and Jupiter were named in their honor today.
The Space Shuttle Columbia crew, Commander Rick Husband;
pilot William McCool; Mission Specialists Michael Anderson,
Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark; and Israeli
payload specialist Ilan Ramon, will have celestial memorials,
easily found from Earth.
The names, proposed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL), Pasadena, Calif., were recently approved by the
International Astronomical Union. The official clearinghouse
of asteroid data, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s
Minor Planet Center, released the dedication today.
The seven asteroids were discovered at the Palomar
Observatory near San Diego on the nights of July 19-21, 2001,
by former JPL astronomer Eleanor F. Helin. She retired in
July 2002. The seven asteroids range in diameter from five to
seven kilometers (3.1 to 4.3 miles). The Palomar Observatory
is owned and operated by the California Institute of
“Asteroids have been around for billions of years and will
remain for billions more,” said Dr. Raymond Bambery,
Principal Investigator of JPL’s Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking
Project. “I like to think that in the years, decades and
millennia ahead people will look to the heavens, locate these
seven celestial sentinels and remember the sacrifice made by
the Columbia astronauts,” he said.
The 28th and final flight of Columbia (STS-107) was a 16-day
mission dedicated to research in physical, life and space
sciences. The seven astronauts aboard Columbia worked 24
hours a day, in two alternating shifts, successfully
conducting approximately 80 separate experiments. On February
1, 2003, the Columbia and its crew were lost over the western
United States during the spacecraft’s re-entry into Earth’s
Asteroids are rocky fragments left over from the formation of
the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Most of the
known asteroids orbit the sun in a belt between Mars and
Jupiter. Scientists think there are probably millions of
asteroids, ranging in size from less than one kilometer (.62
mile) wide to hundreds of kilometers across.
More than 100,000 asteroids have been detected since the
first was discovered back on January 1, 1801. Ceres, the
first asteroid discovered, is also the largest at about 933
kilometers (580 miles) in diameter.
The Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking System is managed by JPL for
NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington. JPL is a division
of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
For information about NASA on the Internet, visit:
Information about JPL’s Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking Program
is available at: