Haunting new exhibit at Kennedy Space Center remembers Challenger and Columbia tragedies


  • Photo via nasa.gov

Kennedy Space Center has plenty of great exhibits celebrating the joys and wonder of space travel but a new exhibit showcases some of the more difficult times of the shuttle era. “Forever Remembered” is a nearly 2,000 sq ft exhibit focused on the two major shuttle disasters Challenge STS-51L and Columbia STS-107.  

The new exhibit features recovered hardware from both disasters, with much of it being on public display for the very first time. The exhibit took four years to design and includes small individual collections of items belonging to each astronaut. Family photographs, a childhood lunch box, a personal Bible and other personal items are on display; many of these items were loaned by the families of the lost astronauts specifically for this display. The exhibit features the largest collection of memorabilia and personal items of both crews.

After visitors walk down the corridor dedicated to the individual astronauts, they enter a larger room showcasing pieces of the wrecked shuttles. On one side the famous fuselage of Challenger, still displaying its American flag, sits in silence. On the other side, the flight deck windows of Columbia are placed at eye level. These are the same flight deck windows that the Columbia Seven looked out of as their shuttle disintegrated above Texas and the same that local legend John Young looked out of as he helped test fly Columbia in the earliest days of the shuttle program.

The exhibit concludes with a small area showing the clean up and investigation of the two disasters. A video displays handwritten letters from children expressing their condolences. A second video shows clips and pictures to help visitors understand the post-disaster investigation that took place after both disasters. Displays focusing on the push to return to space leave the exhibit on a somber but uplifting note.

The exhibit is located near the Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, which focuses on the hope and progress the shuttle program brought. Together the two exhibits are designed to help visitors understand the difficult but important progress the shuttle program as a whole provided to the world.

Both exhibits are now open and are included in regular admission to Kennedy Space Center.