Cornyn Honors the 20th Anniversary of Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

February 1, 2023

As Texans and Americans do, people from all walks of life came together at a time of tragedy and rallied behind a unified effort to help bring answers to a nation in mourning.

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the loss of Columbia, I'm proud to cosponsor a Senate Resolution to commemorate the loss of Columbia and honor its crew.

 WASHINGTON – Today on the floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed the 20-year anniversary of the NASA Space Shuttle Columbia explosion on February 1, 2003. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video can be found here.

“After 16 days in orbit, the shuttle was bound for Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where members of the astronauts’ families and countless spectators gathered to watch its landing, which is always an exciting and inspiring sight.” 

“As it crossed Texas on a beautiful Saturday morning, something terrible happened.”

“The shuttle broke in several pieces as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere, and all seven astronauts aboard lost their life. The crew of Columbia included two Texans, Rick Husband and Willie McCool, along with Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon.”

“The disaster left a field of wreckage that stretched from Fort Worth across east Texas and into Louisiana.” 

“The government, of course, immediately launched a massive search to recover pieces of the space shuttle in order to determine what went wrong.”

“Some 25,000 volunteers from Texas and Louisiana helped search an area that covered 2.3 million miles. They ranged from college students at nearby Steven F. Austin to teams of ham radio operators who helped law enforcement with communications.” 

“As Texans and Americans do, people from all walks of life came together at a time of tragedy and rallied behind a unified effort to help bring answers to a nation in mourning. This tragedy happened just a couple of months into my first Senate term, and I witnessed this massive response effort in action.” 

“I appreciate the Texans who came together in the wake of this tragedy to preserve pieces of Columbia and provide NASA and these families with answers that they so earnestly sought. Their efforts, then and now, have helped make the nation’s space program safer and more successful.”

“As we mark the 20th anniversary of the loss of Columbia, I’m proud to cosponsor a Senate Resolution to commemorate the loss of Columbia and honor its crew. I appreciate the bipartisan support of senators on both sides of the aisle who have joined in this effort, and I hope the resolution will pass unanimously today.”