The end of January and beginning of February holds an unusual amount of losses for our space program:
January 27, 1967… Apollo 1 lost
January 28, 1986… Challenger STS-51L lost
February 1, 2003… Columbia STS-107 lost
I have to be careful on this day, because many news outlets re-run footage of
Challenger in particular, and I for one simply never wish to view it again. Instead, from time to time, I chose to visit the Challenger Memorial in Houston, while it was still there. I have also visited the Apollo 1 Memorial at Cape Canaveral, and the Columbia Memorial in Arlington.
While there are many civic and private memorials, or schools and streets named after astronauts in their home towns or other cities -- quite incredibly, there is no national memorial for NASA's collective tragedies.
Sad that this amazing piece of work was presented by musician John Denver, who would himself perish in an air crash. "They Were Flying For Me" is truly a beautiful song, with moving footage of the Challenger crew.
We are certainly not alone in our losses. The official efforts of the USA and USSR have claimed 9 human lives in training accidents, 15 in flight, and 3 in space.
NASA also has very informative Day of Remembrance slide shows for the three missions in which the most lives were lost.
The most recently constructed memorial, which I felt very privileged to see in fall of 2014, is at the Neil A. Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Created by Tony Hight in 2009, it's one of the few that lists every major mission in which an entire crew was lost in service to their country.