CHENEY, Wash. - On Feb. 1, 2003, the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated over Texas, minutes before returning to NASA's Kennedy Space Center. All seven astronauts on board were killed, including Cheney High School graduate Lt. Col. Michael Anderson.
The astronauts were returning home from a 16-day science mission.
An investigation determined that the shuttle's wing was damaged during liftoff.
Michael Anderson Elementary on Fairchild Air Force Base held a special assembly in honor of Anderson on Thursday. The message focused on following your dreams and shooting for the stars, just like he did.
Anderson spent much of his childhood the Spokane area and considered it his hometown. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1981 and was commissioned in the Air Force. He went on to flight school and learned to fly the KC-135 tanker. He was selected by NASA as an astronaut in December 1994 and reported for training in March 1995. Anderson's first space mission was in 1998 aboard the Endeavour.
In what turned out to be one of the last times he was seen alive, Anderson did an interview with KXLY while on orbit aboard Columbia, talking about reaching for the stars.
"I would like to tell him that if you are living in Spokane and in the Cheney area, you got some very good schools, very good programs around there, and just apply yourself, then just work hard and be persistent and don't give up, you can achieve anything you want to achieve," Anderson said.
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