Smith Eulogized by Navy Colleague : Challenger’s Pilot Buried With Honors in Arlington

Associated Press

Navy Capt. Michael J. Smith, who died in the Jan. 28 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, was buried Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Six white horses, guided by a seventh, pulled Smith’s coffin on an ancient caisson to the grave site overlooking Washington, following an afternoon memorial service.

“We lost him long before we could afford his loss,” said Cmdr. Richard H. Purnell, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy with Smith and delivered the eulogy.

Quest ‘Must Go On’


“Mike would insist the quest, above all of us, must go on,” Purnell told the friends, colleagues and family gathered in the chapel at Ft. Myer, adjoining the cemetery.

The U.S. Navy Band played before the service and as the coffin was brought to the grave site with full military honors.

Smith’s wife, Jane, and his children, Scott, 17, Alison, 14, and Erin, 8, walked behind the coffin.

On a hillside near the Tomb of the Unknowns, under the shade of a large maple tree, Cmdr. Paul J. Moore conducted a brief graveside ceremony. A seven-member honor guard fired the ceremonial volleys.


In the distance, a bugler played taps.

Three Days After Birthday

Smith, a native of Beaufort, N.C., was living in Houston near the Johnson Space Center at the time of his death. He was buried three days after what would have been his 41st birthday.

The remains of the seven Challenger crew members were recovered from the ocean floor about 18 miles offshore from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Identification and autopsies were completed two weeks ago and the remains were flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for funeral preparations.

Smith, the Challenger’s pilot, was the second to be buried. Sharon Christa McAuliffe, the Concord, N.H., teacher who planned to broadcast lessons from space, was buried last week in Concord in a private ceremony.

Other Victims

Also killed on the Challenger were Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, 46, the mission commander; Judith A. Resnik, 36, mission specialist; Ronald E. McNair, 35, mission specialist; Air Force Lt. Col. Ellison S. Onizuka, 39, mission specialist, and Gregory B. Jarvis, 42, a Hughes Aircraft engineer.

Scobee will be buried at Arlington on May 19.


Vice. Adm. Robert E. Kirksey, director of the Navy Operations Space Command and Control, presented the flag from the coffin to Mrs. Smith.

The black granite tombstone identifies Smith as the pilot of the space shuttle Challenger and was engraved with a Navy insignia with a shooting star through it.