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Space Shuttle Columbia

Colorado peak honors Columbia crew

U.S. Interior Secretary Gail Norton signs an accord naming Columbia Point. Behind her is NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, right, and astronaut Scott Parazynski.
U.S. Interior Secretary Gail Norton signs an accord naming Columbia Point. Behind her is NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, right, and astronaut Scott Parazynski.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A mountain peak in Colorado has been named Columbia Point in memory of the seven astronauts who died in February's shuttle disaster.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton made the announcement Tuesday, with Norton saying the mountain will "commend a noble mission."

The crew of STS-107 died February 1 when the shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. NASA said the crew had gone on a mountain-climbing trip in Wyoming in August 2001 as a bonding exercise.

Columbia Point is on the east side of Kit Carson Mountain in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado. It is a half-mile from Challenger Point, which was named in memory of the astronauts of the space shuttle Challenger. The Challenger exploded soon after liftoff in January 1986.

"When people look upon these mountains, they see the challenge of the American frontier -- bold in vision, courageous in spirit and endless in horizon," O'Keefe said.

"The crew of Columbia, like the Challenger before her, had these qualities at their core. These mountains are a natural testament to their memory, their spirit of exploration and will endure forever."

Norton said future shuttle crews may look down on Earth and know the mountain peak commends the astronauts who went before them.

"The point looks up to the heavens, and it allows us, once again, to thank our heroes who soared far beyond the mountain, traveled past the sky -- and live on in our memories forever," she said.

Several members of Columbia astronaut David Brown's family attended the ceremony, NASA said. The other members of the STS-107 crew were Commander Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, Mike Anderson and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.


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