Silent Wings Museum unveils 'Columbia: Fifteen Years After'

Silent Wings Museum unveils 'Columbia: Fifteen Years After'

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It's been 15 years since the space shuttle Columbia left Cape Canaveral.

The mission -- purely scientific -- a rarity for NASA.

The crew of STS-107 researched microgravity. Leading the crew, was Col. Rick Husband, a Texas Tech grad, and Coronado High alum Willie McCool.

After completing its mission, the shuttle disintegrated while re-entering the atmosphere over Texas. The debris scattered across the state.

At fault, insulation foam that damaged the left wing. That allowed atmospheric plasma to break into the shuttle and tear it apart.

Now, in commemoration of the disaster The Silent Wings museum debuts "Columbia: Fifteen Years After."

The exhibit focuses not only on the loss of seven astronauts, but on their accomplishments.

Among the pieces recovered from the crash sites, "the miracle photo." It's a negative taken from a flight capsule near Hemphill. It's the last photo of the entire crew.

Willie McCool's father, Barry, said the exhibit's focus on research will help push the space program's mission "for all mankind."

"All the previous NASA flights from Apollo 1 all the way through to Columbia has really expanded our horizons, it's contributed so much to what we take for granted today," Mr. McCool said. "Simple things like Velcro closures, Tang instant orange juice, duct tape, all of those things were manufactured and invented to support the Space Program. Now, we take those things for granted and those are just a few of the items that have benefited all of mankind from space exploration."

McCool's mother, Audrey, said it also honors her son's commitment to education, something very near and dear to his heart.

"He was very interested in getting kids interested in completing their education, and looking at careers and just focusing on what they want to do, not necessarily what they oughta do, what somebody else wants them to do, but focusing on what they want to do" Mrs. McCool said. "So, yes, he'd be very pleased with the focus on the children here and trying to get them an education and into the research that they were doing."

This commemorative exhibit will be on display through June 17 in the Timeline Gallery at the Silent Wings Museum. 

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