(WASHINGTON) - Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today announced the naming of Columbia Point, a 13,980-foot mountain peak in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in honor of the Space Shuttle Columbia's final voyage.
Relatives of the astronauts, who were lost upon re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003, joined the ceremony at the U.S. Department of the Interior. They included Judge Paul and Dorothy Brown of Arlington, Va., parents of the late astronaut David Brown, and Doug Brown, David's brother.
"Today, we name a point in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Colorado in honor of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Seven brave astronauts perished during her final mission on February 1, 2003," Secretary Norton said. "Columbia Point is an appropriate honor for this shuttle's last voyage. Those who explore space in the days ahead may gaze back at Earth - and know that Columbia Point is there to commend a noble mission. 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." Secretary Norton noted that mission specialist Brown and the other astronauts -- Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, Rick Husband, William C. McCool, and Ilan Ramon- were "modern-day heroes."
"The people of NASA and the families of the Columbia crew are humbled and grateful for this unique American honor that the Interior Department has bestowed upon the crew of STS-107," NASA Administrator O'Keefe said. "When people look upon these mountains, they see the challenge of the American frontier - bold in vision, courageous in spirit and endless in horizon. 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."
Other participants in the ceremony today included officials of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names - Leo Dillon, Chair; Robert Hiatt, Domestic Names Committee Chair; and Roger Payne, Executive Secretary. The Secretary of the Interior shares responsibility with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for ensuring uniformity of names among federal agencies.
Columbia Point is located on the east side of Kit Carson Mountain. On the northwest shoulder of the same mountain is Challenger Point, a peak previously named in memory of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded soon after liftoff on January 28, 1986.
Background Information on the U.S. Board on Geographic Names
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is responsible by law for standardizing geographic names throughout the Federal Government. Once a name has been made official it will be published in the Board's Decision List and made available from the Georgraphic Names Information System (GNIS), the nation's official geographic names repository at http://geonames.usgs.gov.
Background Information on Columbia Point
Columbia Point: summit, elevation 4,262 m (13,980 ft); located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, on the east side of Kit Carson Mountain, 0.8 km (0.5 mi) east-southeast of Challenger Point; named in memory of the Space Shuttle Columbia, lost in an accident on February 1, 2003, and for the scientific exploration, technical excellence, and the dream of spaceflight for which the mission stood; Saguache County, Colorado; 37 58'42"N, 105 35'46"W.