NASA’s Day of Remembrance Date in the current year: January 25, 2024

NASA’s Day of Remembrance On the last Thursday of January, NASA honors the memory of all astronauts and astronaut candidates who sacrificed their lives while furthering the cause of space exploration and discovery. The date of NASA’s Day of Remembrance is close to the anniversaries of three major tragedies in the history of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and space exploration in general.

Space exploration is inherently risky, and the men and women who decide to become NASA astronauts willingly and bravely accept the risks associated with the job. They are trained to make tough decisions in dangerous situations, but some tragedies are unavoidable because there’s no time to make a decision and do anything about the situation.

The three most devastating tragedies in the history of NASA are the Apollo 1 catastrophe, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. They resulted in the deaths of 17 NASA astronauts who had no chance of surviving under the circumstances.

The Apollo 1 tragedy occurred on January 27, 1967 during a launch rehearsal test of the Apollo program’s first crewed mission, retroactively named Apollo 1. A cabin fire spread rapidly and killed all three crew members (Gus Grissom, Ed Whife and Roger B. Chaffee) who couldn’t open the plug door hatch due to the high internal pressure in the cabin. 

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on January 28, 1986. Due to a failure in the spacecraft’s solid rocket booster, the shuttle broke apart above the Atlantic Ocean a little over a minute after launch, killing all seven astronauts inside. The disaster resulted in the Space Shuttle program being put on a hiatus for 32 months.

The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster took place on February 1, 2003 during the spacecraft’s reentry into the atmosphere. A piece of insulation broke off from the shuttle’s external tank and got stuck in the left wing, eventually causing the spacecraft to disintegrate, killing all seven astronauts aboard. The loss of Columbia and its crew resulted in a 29-month hiatus in the Space Shuttle program and its eventual closure following the completion of the International Space Station.

NASA used to hold memorial events on the anniversaries of all three tragedies, but since they all occurred within one week, it was decided to institute a single day of remembrance to honor the sacrifice of all deceased astronauts and astronaut candidates. This is how NASA’s Day of Remembrance came to be. 

On the last Thursday of January, each of NASA space centers holds wreath-laying ceremonies and other memorial events to pay respects to NASA’s fallen heroes. A NASA’s Day of Remembrance ceremony also takes place at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

You can observe NASA’s Day of Remembrance by participating in one of the official wreath-laying ceremonies if you have an opportunity, learning more about the brave men and women who gave their lives to make space exploration possible, visiting your local planetarium or space museum, and spreading the word about the observance on social media.

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NASA’s Day of Remembrance, observances in the US, Apollo tragedy, Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, Space Shuttle Columbia disaster