Press Release

Challenger Crew Honored with Congressional Space Medal of Honor

By SpaceRef Editor
July 23, 2004
Filed under ,

The families of the Space Shuttle Challenger’s crew
today accepted the Congressional Space Medal of Honor from
NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe. The honors, presented in the
name of Congress and on behalf of President George W. Bush,
were made during a private ceremony with the families of the
seven astronauts in Washington.

“The Challenger tragedy was a defining moment in American
history and demonstrated that achieving great things often
comes with great sacrifice. We honor the bravery and
dedication of the crew and their families with a renewed
commitment to the causes to which they devoted their lives —
exploration and discovery,” said Administrator O’Keefe. “Not
a single day goes by that the entire NASA family doesn’t
think about the incredible spirit of these brave explorers.
We will never forget our fallen astronaut heroes and their
courageous families.”

The Space Shuttle Challenger’s crew of seven astronauts died
in the explosion of their spacecraft during the launch of
STS-51-L on January 28, 1986, from NASA’s Kennedy Space
Center in Florida. The explosion occurred 73 seconds into the
flight, as a result of a leak in one of two Solid Rocket
Boosters that ignited the main liquid fuel tank.

The STS-51-L crew included Commander Francis R. (Dick)
Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith A.
Resnik, Ronald E. McNair and Ellison S. Onizuka, Payload
Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis and Sharon Christa McAuliffe,
the first teacher to fly in space.

The Congressional Space Medal of Honor was authorized by
Congress in 1969 to recognize “any astronaut who in the
performance of his duties has distinguished himself by
exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the
welfare of the Nation and mankind.”

Astronauts who have been honored with the Congressional Space
Medal include John Young, Jim Lovell, Virgil “Gus” Grissom,
Shannon Lucid, William Shepherd and Senator John Glenn. In
all, a total of 27 astronauts have now been honored.

Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong received the very first
Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978 at NASA’s Kennedy
Space Center in Florida.

For more information about NASA, mission STS-51-L of the
Space Shuttle Challenger, and for a photograph of a
Congressional Space Medal of Honor, visit the Internet at:

SpaceRef staff editor.