HOUSTON -- It has been ten years since the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and her seven-member crew.
To some, the ten years have flown by, but there are moments that are forever frozen in time.
“It just seems like yesterday," said Wayne Hale.
Wayne Hale knows the space shuttle. He spent years as a flight director, even more as shuttle program manager. For him, February 1, 2003 is one of those frozen days.
"First day on the job new job," he remembered.
Hale was on the runway in Florida waiting for the crew to land. It was his first time he was not in mission control for a shuttle landing.
"All of a sudden we realized that we weren't hearing from the crew and the clock counting down said that they should be in sight; and, it became very clear that things were not as they should be," said Hale.
The first evidence that something was seriously wrong with Columbia were TV pictures from Dallas.
"Shock. Couldn't be happening. Just numb. Didn't understand how it could have happened," Hale said.
Memorials and anniversaries have a tendency to push remembrance. But it’s not memory that is most important to the folks at NASA -- it’s actually learning from tragedy
"You don't ever get on with your life after tragedy,” said Hale. “You don't get over it. Maybe you pick up the pieces and do some things, but it never leaves your mind. This is, you know, a death in the family.”
"America is blessed with heroes. I don't know where we get these people that put their lives on the line. To advance the nations interest to advance humanities interest, but we do," said Hale.
Mike Anderson, David Brown, Laurel Clark, William McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Ilan Ramon and Commander Rick Husband are all remembered at Astronaut Memorial Grove at the Johnson Space Center.
“It is just very awesome to me to remember those lives because they believed what they were doing was important and worth the risk. I do to," said Hale.
The tragedy forced a conversation about the future of America in space. It’s a conversation that is still taking place.