Image: O'Keefe
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe meets reporters at the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday to announce the launch of the Columbia Shuttle Memorial Trust.

A campaign to raise money to benefit the families of the Columbia astronauts and to build memorials to the fallen space crew has been established by leaders of the space and entertainment communities, officials said Tuesday.

The Columbia Shuttle Memorial Trust is a campaign to raise $1 million for the families of each of the seven astronauts who died Feb. 1 when the space shuttle came apart over Texas while returning to Earth.

Part of the money raised for the trust will also be used to build memorials to the crew.

Killed in the accident were Rick D. Husband, Columbia commander; William C. McCool, pilot; Michael P. Anderson, payload commander; Ilan Ramon, payload specialist; and mission specialists David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Blair Salton Clark.

A memorial to the fallen astronauts will be dedicated at Arlington Cemetery next February. The dedication is to be followed by a gala, possibly at the National Air and Space Museum, to present funds raised by the trust to the families of the Columbia crew, officials announced.

Richard Gelfond, co-chief executive of the Imax Corp., is chairman of the Columbia Shuttle Memorial Trust steering committee. Volunteers to assist in the fund raising include actor-director Ron Howard; Alan Horn, president of Warner Bros. Entertainment; and former astronauts Frank Culbertson, Charles Bolden, Guion Bluford, Kathryn D. Sullivan and John Glenn.

At a news conference announcing launch of the memorial fund, NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe said the crew of Columbia “dedicated themselves to pursuing scientific challenges on behalf of those of us on Earth.

“This initiative, supported by a dynamic combination of leaders from Hollywood and the space industry, will undoubtedly yield great benefit for the families of these honorable men and women,” said O’Keefe. “I applaud this effort by entertainment and business to pay tribute to the Columbia shuttle crew who gave their lives to serve us all.”

Donations to the trust may be made by calling 1-877-997-7223, or by visiting the campaign’s Web site.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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