MOUNTAIN VIEW (KCBS) — Flags flew at half-staff on Friday at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View as the space agency honored the astronauts who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

During the annual “Day of Remembrance,” hearts were heavy as scientists and staff remembered the darker days of the space agency’s history.

“I’m thinking about the day in Los Angeles when I first heard about the accident on the radio,” Communication Director Donald James said, referring to the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

“It really changed my life and made recommit to NASA; it’s been that way ever since,” James said.

Since 1967, 17 astronauts have died during space missions including Kalpana Chawla, a Mission Specialist who died aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion on Feb. 1, 2003 and who spent much of her early career at Ames.

Center Director Deborah Fang said NASA’s Annual “Day of Remembrance” is also about not repeating mistakes of the past.

“Fortunately we learn from each one of these; we learn from their sacrifices and hopefully we become a better agency for it,” Fang said.

Flags also flew at half-staff at all ten of NASA’s research centers across the country.

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