After being hidden for decades, the remnants of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia are now on display in a new exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The exhibit marks the first time that any remains from either crash have ever been displayed. A piece of the Challenger’s fuselage is on display alongside the flight deck windows of the Columbia. NASA has also chosen to show items representing the astronauts from those flights, as both a tribute and a reminder of them.
June Scobee Rodgers, the wife of late Challenger commander Francis “Dick” Scobee said that although it is sad to see the wreckage, it is a “wonderful memorial” to the shuttles. As tribute to commander Scobee, a leather helmet used during his flights on a Starduster biplane with his wife June is shown. There are display cases for each astronaut, although not all families contributed to the exhibit. Columbia commander Rick Husband’s display case is across the hall from Scobee’s, inside are a pair of scuffed cowboy boots and a well-used Bible.
The design of the memorial was a collaboration between NASA and the families of the crew members lost on missions STS-51L and STS-107, and is titled “Forever Remembered.” Part of a permanent exhibit focused on the retired shuttle Atlantis, with the entrance to the memorial located just beneath the nose of the Atlantis, which is suspended inside the Kennedy Space Center.
As a result of the Challenger accident, improvements in the rocket booster design were made, which prevented any booster failures for the remaining 110 missions of the shuttle program. The successor to the shuttle program, the Orion, made its first test launch in December of last year, and faces neither of the dangers that caused the two shuttle accidents. This was partially in reaction to the Columbia accident, and the current stacked design of the Orion places the crew module on top of the rocket assembly rather than beside it.