The seven members of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew. The seven members of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew. The seven members of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew. (Photo: NASA / Getty Images)

See how the world is celebrating 7 international space heroes

On the anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle tragedy, its crew is being honored.

Shortly after 9 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2003, the world watched as seven astronauts were returning to Earth after a two-week mission in space. Then there was an explosion.

Now 13 years later, global citizens are honoring the heroes of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

In the United States and across Europe, special tributes are being held this week. Columbia astronaut Kalpana Chawla, India's first woman in space, is being remembered in her home country.

Another of the heroes aboard that ship was Ilan Ramon, NASA's first astronaut from Israel. The father of four is being commemorated this week at the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference, which is taking place just outside Tel Aviv, Israel. In honor of the special event, NASA has sent the wreckage of the shuttle to Israel to be put on display.

In 2011, Tom Hanks helped produce a documentary called "An Article of Hope" about Ilan Ramon's life. "This is one of the most masterful stories," legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin said after seeing a screening of the film. "The way this crew faced their mission is something that really needs to be seen by so many people."

More than a decade after the tragic events of that cold winter morning, NASA and Israel are again working together on new space missions. The two countries are collaborating on a mission to Mars. The U.S. space agency has entered into a partnership with Israel, the same country that hosted an international space conference in October.

Israeli space technology is known for being extremely light in weight. It's an important factor to consider when planning trips to Mars, where conserving energy will be top of mind. That same attention to space-travel efficiency is what's driving an Israeli team to lead the first private mission to the moon with nothing more than a dishwasher-sized spacecraft.

Aldrin, the second human to ever step foot on the moon, is excited about all these advancements. "It is in our DNA, our makeup as human beings, to have a curiosity to expand our knowledge and to explore beyond the present limits," he told From The Grapevine. "It is an inevitable mark of progress."


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