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Mountaintop Honors Shuttle Columbia

June 11, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A 13,980-foot mountain peak in Colorado on Tuesday was named in honor of the space shuttle Columbia.

The peak, in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Mountains, was named Columbia Point in a ceremony at the Interior Department.

"Columbia Point will forever commemorate the space shuttle mission," said Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, who presided over the naming ceremony with NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe. "It's a high point that looks up to the heavens," she said.

The peak is one of three in the mountain range that commemorate American explorers of the past and present.

One peak honors the 19th century Western explorer Kit Carson. Another is named in honor of the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded after liftoff in 1986. Challenger Point and Columbia Point are about the same height.

"It's fitting that sister peaks, Challenger Point and now Columbia Point, honor our beloved space missions," Norton said.

Astronaut Scott Parazynski, an avid mountain climber, suggested naming the peak after helping to counsel the families of the deceased Columbia astronauts who died when their craft broke up as it returned to Earth on Feb. 1.

Parazynski, who has climbed to Challenger Point, said he plans to climb to Columbia Point later this summer and place a bronze plaque in memory of his colleagues.

"I think the crew of STS-107 Columbia would be ecstatic to know that they will have a special place," Parazynski said.

The name Columbia Point is registered with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a federal agency that standardizes geographic names.

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