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Forum:Space Places
Topic:Patricia Huffman Smith Museum (Hemphill, TX)
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Formal Ceremony
February 1, 2011, 7:45 a.m.
First Baptist Church, Hemphill, TX

Ribbon Ceremony
February 1, 2011, 11:00 a.m.
Patricia Huffman Smith Museum
375 Sabine Street, Hemphill, TX

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Returns to Hemphill, Texas for New Columbia Museum Opening

Two events, including the opening of a new space-themed museum, to honor the space shuttle Columbia and her crew are planned in Hemphill, Texas on Tuesday, Feb. 1. Both events are open to the media and public.

At 7:45 a.m. CST the Sabine County Columbia Memorial Committee and the J.R. Huffman Public Library will host the eighth annual memorial for the STS-107 space shuttle mission at the First Baptist Church in Hemphill at 301 Highway 87 South.

NASA speakers at the event include Gerry Schumann, of NASA Headquarters in Washington, and Debbie Awtonomow, of Kennedy Space Center, Fla. They were NASA leaders on-location in Hemphill during the Columbia recovery process.

At 11 a.m., a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Patricia Huffman Smith Museum, "Remember Columbia," will be held. The museum is located at 375 Sabine Street. The 3,400-square-foot museum houses the story of space exploration, space related artifacts, a digital learning center and informational items about NASA's space program.

Johnson Space Center Director Michael L. Coats is scheduled to speak at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Following the ceremony, there will be a photo opportunity at the library as NASA representatives provide a set of space shuttle-themed bookmarks that have been created to share NASA information with the public. In addition to the J.R. Huffman Public Library, more than 920 libraries in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico will receive the bookmarks.

For more information about attending the events, contact Marsha Cooper with the Sabine County Columbia Memorial Committee at 936-275-7949.

In February 2003, Hemphill and its vicinity were one of the key search areas for debris from the space shuttle Columbia. The community contributed greatly to assist NASA in accomplishing an unprecedented air, ground and water search. The community’s dedication was instrumental in the recovery of more than 80,000 pieces of the puzzle that were reassembled at Kennedy and aided NASA in a successful return to flight.

Robert PearlmanThe Dallas Morning News shares some of the history behind the Patricia Huffman Smith "Remembering Columbia" museum.
NASA offered historians and designers to help create displays for the museum, and the agency also agreed to donate an orange space suit and helmet like those worn by the Columbia astronauts. Though none of the wreckage from the orbiter was offered, each of the seven crew members' families offered items recovered from the downed spacecraft.

Local leaders met with representatives from the Columbia crew families, seeking their input and approval and agreeing to add features such as a digital learning center. The final design included photo panels describing each of Columbia's 28 missions, including a large section on its last.

One section focused on the massive recovery efforts and anguished memorial services after the shuttle broke apart more than 200,000 feet above Texas. The museum's final section was several rows of cabinets housing each Columbia crew members' donated memorabilia.

Each astronaut's display case offers glimpses of their humor, their dedication and passion for exploration. Families donated everything from astronauts' favorite running shoes and hiking boots, to technical manuals, e-mails from space, favorite books and childhood photos. At the center of everything would be the 1/5th scale model of the orbiter.

TBPhotographerMore information about the Remembering Columbia Museum and pictures are available here.
blue_eyesOh my! Thank you for posting this info and the beautiful photos. I've been wondering how the opening went... and I've been trying to get in touch with anyone there, but all I had before now was just a PO Box. So, I thank you!

Do you know if many people turned out on Feb. 1st? Wish I could have been there!!

Robert PearlmanJohnson Space Center: JSC Features
Museum Opens in Hemphill to Honor Columbia and Space Exploration

Schools closed and visitors drove from many hours away to commemorate the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and the STS-107 crew and to celebrate the opening of the Patricia Huffman Smith Columbia Museum in Hemphill. The small East Texas town is where much of the Columbia debris came to rest and recovery efforts were led when the spacecraft broke apart reentering the Earth's atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003.


Credit: NASA/Carl Martin

Above: Former Center Director General Howell, museum benefactor Al Smith and Center Director Mike Coats commemorate Columbia and the crew of STS-107 at the memorial service in Hemphill.

The 2,700 square foot display area in the museum shares the story of space exploration through the lens of Columbia, showcasing photos of the crews she ferried to space and describing the missions they accomplished on large panels that adorn the museum. It also honors two community members who died in the recovery efforts.

"It is a wonderful testimony to what the community here did, to what Columbia was all about," said Gerry Schumann, NASA's lead incident commander during the recovery efforts.


Credit: NASA/Carl Martin

Above: The family of STS-107 mission specialist Kalpana Chawla donated items belonging to her to the museum.

Johnson Space Center team members worked closely with the Sabine County Columbia Memorial Committee to outfit the museum with shuttle models, replicas of experiments about Columbia and a variety of other displays. The families of STS-107 crew members Commander Rick Husband, Pilot William McCool, Mission Specialists David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, Payload Commander Michael Anderson and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, donated personal items from each astronaut. Evelyn Husband Thompson, the wife of Commander Husband, donated a contact lens case that her husband carried on Columbia, which was recovered near Hemphill. Other families, including those of recovery effort pilot Buzz Mier and the Texas Forest Service's Charles Krenek, donated old photographs, flight suits, crew patches, gear owned by their loved ones and items they collected after the tragedy.

The museum also includes a classroom that will be part of the agency's Digital Learning Network, where teachers and students will be able to interact with NASA for educational activities and take advantage of the agency's resources that help advance curiosity and understanding about space.


Credit: NASA/Carl Martin

Above: U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert (right) and another visitor speak at the opening of the Columbia museum in Hemphill.

"This tribute will stand as an encouragement to the youth of this community and our state to learn more about space and hopefully steer them to study science, math and engineering," said JSC Director Mike Coats. "Hopefully space flight will be a part of their future."

At a memorial service and ribbon cutting ceremony before visitors entered the museum, NASA officials from around the agency and Hemphill community members reflected upon the bonds built during the recovery efforts.

"No one in our community knew what to expect," said Hemphill City Manager Don Iles. "No one knew that thousands of volunteers and searchers representing hundreds of government agencies would soon descend upon our town. I'll never forget that in the midst of this tragedy, our town did the right thing."


Credit: NASA/Carl Martin

Above: NASA officials, relatives of the STS-107 crew and visitors attend the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Patricia Huffman Smith Museum.

General Howell, JSC Director during Columbia also expressed gratitude for the Hemphill community.

"After the Columbia tragedy happened, the Johnson Space Center, like all of you, went through some tough, tough times," Howell said. "Not only did we lose seven dear friends and teammates but we were under an almost daily barrage of criticism from the media and second guessers. However, when we came up to the Piney Woods of Hemphill in East Texas, all we heard from you was 'what can we do to help.' And you came through every, every time."

blue_eyesAwesome report. Great photos too! It must have been such an emotional and moving event...
cordell stakerBy chance I happened to be working in Hemphill Texas on the 24th of February at the time of the last launch for Discovery. I recently moved to Texas from Denver, and had no idea that the people of Hemphill had played such an important role in the recovery of Columbia.

I toured the new museum. Magnificant! I had a tear with "Cookie" who was managing the desk that day.

Most excellent job, and thanks to all who contributed to the work of recovery, and setting up that museum.

I am one of those kids who was 7 when Sputnik was launched, and then watched every test pattern delay on black and white TV through the '60's as Shepard, Grissom, Glenn and others took to space.

I was living in France when Apollo 13 happened, and vividly remember the overt prayers of the French as they willed that Apollo team home.

I remember watching Challenger's accident on a ten foot screen in a corporate training facility.

The IMAX on Hubble was outstanding, and the museum for the crew of Columbia in Hemphill is exceptional.

All my tax dollars over several decades have gone only to the space program and the Hubble. Or so I believe!

Robert PearlmanMy friends Brian (cS: space canuck) and Amanda visited the Patricia Huffman Smith Museum this week and shared these photos:

Robert Pearlman

Jay ChladekI was in the Houston area last week for book research, so on my way back I decided to angle my drive north so I could visit the museum. I am glad I did as I was very impressed with what I saw. All of Columbia's missions are represented with a nice museum display before you get to the efforts involved with recovering STS-107.

I am amazed with how quickly things were put into work to get this museum built in less than a year. Looking at what they had on display, one might think it had been around for longer then that. They are still expanding too as plans are to build a small IMAX theater behind the library and museum. They keep getting donations too as I was told by Cookie that they had just gotten a RCC nose cap and some RCC wing panels from Lockheed (ones built for the shuttle fleet, but never used).

Visiting the region, I am struck by how dense the woods are in that area. The volunteers that combed the woods in that region looking for debris are to be commended as those trees and underbrush are so dense that I don't believe any human feet had ever touched them before in some spots. There was also the logistical support the town provided as well to get their electrical and communications capacity improved within a week once the federal and state agencies all descended on that region. Much of the work done in Hemphill is documented on an hour long DVD called "Of Good Courage". The video runs in the museum in one of the recovery displays, but you can also buy a copy of it for $20.00 US.

It is a bit of a drive to get to Hemphill from either Dallas or Houston, but it isn't too bad as even the two lane roads in Texas have a 70mph speed limit outside the towns. No brown signs are along the sides of the roads yet to tell you where to turn to get to Hemphill, but my GPS found it just fine.

I would say that while we still don't know where the other shuttles will end up being displayed once they are retired, Columbia's spiritual home is in Hemphill now. Anyone who is a fan of that orbiter should visit this museum. All things considered, I think Columbia and STS-107s memory are in good hands.

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