New Exhibit Pays Homage to West Texas Heroes of Space Shuttle Columbia

A grand opening ceremony and reception are scheduled for Thursday (Feb. 1).

Texas Tech University’s Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, The City of Lubbock’s Silent Wings Museum and the Texas Aviation Heritage Foundation, Inc. are proud to announce a special collaborative exhibition titled “Columbia: Fifteen Years After.”

Rick Husband’s official NASA photo.

Rick Husband
(Official NASA photo)

After 15 days in space, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven crew members aboard. The exhibit will honor the crew, with a special focus on two West Texas heroes, shuttle commander Col. Rick Husband and pilot Willie McCool. It also focuses on the Columbia space shuttle program and the 80 experiments accomplished during the mission.

Unique items in the exhibit come directly from the Lani McCool family, the Evelyn Husband Thompson family, Audrey and Barry McCool and the Rick Husband Collection at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library.

Willie McCool was selected for NASA in April 1996 in the largest class ever accepted.

Willie McCool’s official NASA photo.

Willie McCool
(Official NASA photo)

A grand opening ceremony and reception will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 1) at the Silent Wings Museum, 6202 N. Interstate 27. Special guest Col. Steven Lindsey, who retired from NASA in 2011 as Chief of the Astronaut Corps, will present on the lost STS-107 mission as well as events related to the flight, the disaster and the crew. Lindsey flew on five Shuttle missions, logging more than 1,500 hours in space. He is currently the senior director and co-program manager of Space Exploration Systems for Sierra Nevada Corporation.

This commemorative exhibit will be on display through June 17 in the Timeline Gallery at the Silent Wings Museum. Regular business hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Visit or call (806) 775-3049 for admission prices or to schedule a tour.

The exhibit and Lindsey’s appearance are made possible with generous support from the Helen Jones Foundation.

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Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library

The Board of Regents of then-Texas Technological College formally established the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library in 1955, but the librarys collection dates to the early years of Texas Tech.

The largest rare-book library in 130,000 square miles, the major historical repository and research center spans a 78,000-square-foot facility with climate-controlled stacks and pulls tens of thousands of individual items to answer research requests from all over the world. In total, the SWC/SCL houses 22 million historical items, including the master Coronelli globe, constructed in 1688 and once owned by William Randolph Hearst.

The SWC/SCL offers:

  • more than 1,600 manuscript collections
  • 80,000 volumes related to the region
  • 4,000 oral history interviews
  • nearly one million accessible photographs
  • 1,500 newspaper and periodical titles
  • 8,000 reels of microfilm and videotape