Twenty-five years ago, seven astronauts, including Beaufort native Captain Mike Smith, died aboard space shuttle Challenger when it exploded shortly after liftoff.
NASA officials will gather at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Friday morning to mark the somber anniversary. Special guests include the widow of Challenger's commander, June Scobee Rodgers.
She'll be the featured speaker at the outdoor ceremony. Her husband, Dick Scobee, died along with his six crewmates on Jan. 28, 1986. School teacher Christa McAuliffe was among the dead.
Rodgers was instrumental in establishing the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.
The ceremony will take place at the Space Mirror Memorial, a granite monument bearing the names of all 24 astronauts who have died in the line of duty.
Last year, on the anniversary of the Challenger accident, a celebration was held in honor of a former eastern Carolina astronaut, Captain Mike Smith.
The Michael J. Smith mini-museum had its grand opening at Beaufort Elementary School and has now been open for a year.
Captain Smith's widow, Jane Smith, says the museum should inspire local kids to pursue their dreams.