Crew of STS 107

The crew of Space Shuttle mission STS 107 (from left): David M. Brown (mission specialist), Rick D. Husband (commander), Laurel Blair Salton Clark (mission specialist), Kalpana Chawla (mission specialist), Michael P. Anderson (payload commander), William C. McCool (pilot), and Ilan Ramon (payload specialist).

Courtesy NASA/Johnson Space Center.

Last August 6th the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center honored the seven crew members of the ill-fated Space Shuttle Columbia by naming minor planets after them. Columbia disintegrated while reentering Earth's atmosphere on February 1st, resulting in the loss of the shuttle and its crew.

Asteroid 2001 OY28 is now officially designated 51823 Rickhusband, after shuttle commander Rick D. Husband; 2001 OE30 is now 51824 Mikeanderson, after payload commander Michael P. Anderson; 2001 OQ33 is now 51825 Davidbrown, after mission specialist David M. Brown; 2001 OB34 is now 51826 Kalpanachawla, after mission specialist Kalpana Chawla; 2001 OH38 is now 51827 Laurelclark, after mission specialist Laurel B. Clark; 2001 OU39 is now 51828 Ilanramon, after Israeli payload specialist Ilan Ramon; and 2001 OD41 is now 51829 Williemccool, after shuttle pilot William C. "Willie" McCool.

The minor planets were discovered by former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer Eleanor F. Helin from Palomar Observatory on the nights of July 18–21, 2001, as part of the Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) survey. They orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter and range in size from 5 to 7 kilometers.

The Columbia crew aren't the only NASA casualties who have been honored with minor planets posthumously. The seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Challenger who died in 1986 each have their own asteroids, as well as Apollo 1 command pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom (2161 Grissom). Yet no minor planets have been named so far for Grissom's two crewmates — Edward H. White II and Roger B. Chaffee — who also perished in the flash fire during Apollo 1's prelaunch test in 1967.


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