A memorial service was held Thursday at the National Cathedral in Washington for the seven astronauts who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia.
Mourners filled the National Cathedral for the service.
Vice President Dick Cheney was the featured speaker, eulogizing the seven astronauts - six Americans and an Israeli - who died when Columbia disintegrated re-entering earth's atmosphere.
Flanked by the United States and Israeli flags, Vice President Cheney told mourners that two generations ago, the United States embarked on a new course of space exploration with the launch of Columbia, the first shuttle in NASA's fleet. "America and all the world will always remember the first flight of the Columbia in 1981," he said. "And we will never forget the men and women of her final voyage: Willie McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Ilan Ramon, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Rick Husband. May a merciful God receive these seven souls."
Mr. Cheney said the astronauts who died in the Columbia disaster were driven by a fierce determination to make life better on Earth by unlocking the mysteries of outer space. "Their 16-day, six-million-mile mission was devoted to research, and they worked 24 hours a day, in alternating shifts, on experiments in the physical sciences, the life sciences and the space sciences," said Vice President Cheney. "Every great act of exploration involves great risk. The crew of the Columbia accepted that risk in service to all mankind."
Vice President Cheney said the space program must continue. "The legacy of Columbia must go on, they tell us, for the benefit of our children and yours," he said. "Those dreams are carried by the dedicated men and women of NASA who, time and time again, have achieved the seemingly impossible, and whose strength and skill will return us to space."