Apollo 50 Brings ‘Flood of Emotion’ to Syracuse Professor Former NASA Admin Sean O'Keefe Remembers Shuttle Columbia

Former NASA Admin Sean O'Keefe recounts his memorable time with the agency.

Sean O’Keefe (“Oh-keyfe”) led the space agency from 2001-to-2005. Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart upon re-entry during his tenure in 2003.


The accident killed the seven astronauts on board. A tragedy of epic proportion, NASA was motivated by a new mission.


O’Keefe (“Oh-key-fe”) urges NASA to continue space exploration, and never for get those who gave their lives in pursuit of the unknown.
Alyssa Lyons, N-C-C News.

By Alyssa Lyons Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News)— A Syracuse University professor has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 a little differently than most.

Sean O’Keefe served as the 10th Administrator of NASA from 2001-2005.  His tenure is marked by the fatal Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.

The shuttle broke up as it returned to earth’s atmosphere killing the seven astronauts on board. The catastrophic event still resides with O’Keefe today “[I] reminded myself, this is the price of what we’re doing. It is situations where these are serious risks.”

Throughout the rest of O’Keefe’s career full size pictures of the Columbia crew hung outside his office, it was “a motivator in ways I never imagined.”

The Apollo 11 mission is regarded as the most significant feat of human exploration. Mission Commander Neil Armstrong and Apollo lunar module pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed the module Eagle on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969 while Michael Collins piloted from orbit. Apollo 11 fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s wish to put a man on the moon and successfully ended the Space Race.

Unbeknownst to O’Keefe, 30 years later he would lead NASA, united by a common objective, “contribute to the broader definition of the voyage of discovery.”

For the anniversary of Apollo 11, O’Keefe urges NASA to continue its quest of space, conquer limitations for human kind to advance, and never forget those who gave their lives in the pursuit of exploration.

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