The Columbia Orbiter Memorial Act, born in the legislation introduced in March in the Senate by Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), and in the House of Representatives by C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), was signed into law by the President last Wednesday.
NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe said, “The actions by the Congress and the President to honor the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia is heartfelt by the entire NASA family and by the entire country. A national memorial in the Nation’s capital will serve as a reminder about what the crew of Columbia stood for, bravery, honor, and the quest for knowledge. I feel it will help inspire future explorers and help keep the spirit of exploration alive in America. We at NASA are grateful for the support from Senator Stevens and Congressman Young for the timely and thoughtful legislation and their caring approach to commemorate the Columbia crew.”
President George W. Bush signed the “Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2003” into law on April 16, 2003. The “Columbia Orbiter Memorial Act” is contained in what is now Public Law Number 108-11.
The memorial will be placed in the Arlington National Cemetery near the memorial to the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The law authorizes the Secretary of the Army, in consultation the NASA, to place the Columbia marker in Arlington National Cemetery, and authorizes up to $500,000 of previously appropriated funds for the memorial. The legislation also authorizes NASA to collect gifts and donations, over the next five years, for the Columbia Memorial. It also permits NASA to erect other appropriate memorials or monuments with private donations. The law allows NASA to transfer collected money or property for the fund to the Secretary of the Army to defray expenses. Memorial fund procedures will be established and announced in the near future.
The Space Shuttle Columbia was lost on February 1, 2003 with her seven crewmembers, astronauts Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Mike Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon. The Columbia crew’s marker will join the memorial to Challenger crew, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnick, Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe, lost on January 28, 1986.