- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 2, 2003

Flags were lowered to half-staff yesterday at the Goddard Space Flight Center after Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it approached its landing in Florida.
Scientists at Goddard, including a group of Israelis, coordinated some of the experiments during the shuttle's 16-day science mission. The Israeli group is studying the effects of dust and smoke clouds in the Mediterranean to better understand climate changes.
The group included atmospheric physicist Joachim Joseph, 71, of Tel Aviv University, who gave a tiny Torah scroll to Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon to carry into space.
A rabbi gave the scroll in 1944 to Mr. Joseph, then 13, at a Nazi concentration camp. Mr. Joseph read from the scroll during his bar mitzvah ceremony, which the rabbi arranged at the camp in secret. The rabbi then gave Mr. Joseph the scroll, asking him to keep it and tell people their story.
Mr. Joseph said last week that Col. Ramon had helped him fulfill his promise. He said the astronaut asked him if he could borrow the scroll again this spring so his son could read from it during his bar mitzvah.
Alan Williams, a volunteer at Goddard's visitor center, said the center normally would be closed on weekends but opened yesterday for a specially arranged visit of 120 students from Pennsylvania. The students were supposed to tour other areas of Goddard, but that part of the tour was canceled after the Columbia accident, Mr. Williams said.
Employees of the visitor center watched news coverage of the disaster on a TV in the exhibit area.
John Crum of Mitchellville stopped by with his 11-year-old son, Jonathan. Mr. Crum said Columbia's fate brought back memories of the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
"The loss of life in this case is really sad," Mr. Crum said.
John "Sonny" Wycliffe, 61, of Greenbelt, came to nearby Goddard after he heard the news. Mr. Wycliffe, an Indian American, said Indian immigrants followed the Columbia's mission closely because Indian-born Kalpana Chawla was a crew member. He said Mrs. Chawla was featured in newspapers for the Indian-American community.
"Indian Americans take great pride in her," Mr. Wycliffe said.
Mrs. Chawla emigrated to the United States from India in the 1980s and became a U.S. citizen. Mr. Wycliffe said he met her briefly several years ago at the Indian Embassy in the District.
"I'm shocked and grieved that the whole thing has happened," he said.

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