ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In 1982, KTAB reporter Dan Huggins was just 23-years-old while reporting live from Dyess Air Force Base. Behind him stood the 90-ton Space Shuttle Columbia on top of a Boeing 747. The pair paid a visit to Dyess for refueling on their way back to Florida.
“100,000 people came out to Dyess to see the space shuttle Columbia aboard that piggyback… It was big news for Abilene and it was exciting to be a reporter back then,” Huggins said.
That day would prove a positive memory for Higgins and thousands of Abilenians. This visit was brought back to the minds of residents 21 years later, when the Columbia made headlines again, though the story this time was one of disaster.
“Oh, it was tragic. It was really caught the eye of the whole nation. Everyone was just devastated,” Huggins recalled.
Upon re-entry, the shuttle broke apart, caught fire and disintegrated as it fell. There were no survivors among the shuttles crew of seven.
“You see light coming into the atmosphere and you know that was the end of life for seven astronauts,” Huggins said.
David Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, William McCool, and Ilan Ramon made up the crew of the Columbia shuttle. Seven brave souls lost in their devotion to science and exploration. This crew is honored each year on the anniversary of their passing.
“You hate to think of them as anniversaries, you don’t really want to celebrate something like that… We remember it and we learn from it,” said Huggins.