- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

The families of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew yesterday urged the country not to give up on manned spaceflight because of the explosion Saturday that killed all seven astronauts aboard.
Space exploration must continue to improve the quality of life on Earth for future generations, the families said in a written statement released yesterday by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Houston.
"Although we grieve deeply, as do the families of Apollo I and Challenger before us, the bold exploration of space must go on," the statement reads. "Once the root cause of this tragedy is found and corrected, the legacy of Columbia must carry on for the benefit of our children and yours."
Columbia, traveling at more than 12,000 miles per hour, disintegrated 39 miles over Texas early Saturday, 16 minutes before it was scheduled to land at Cape Canaveral, Fla. It strewed potentially toxic debris over eastern Texas and parts of Louisiana.
NASA officials said damage to the shuttle's thermal tiles during the Jan. 16 liftoff may be the leading theory in the investigation into what caused the spacecraft to break apart as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.
Today, as thousands of people comb Texas and Louisiana for clues to what caused the shuttle to come apart, family and friends of the astronauts will gather for a memorial service at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
President Bush and first lady Laura Bush are expected to attend the service, which is scheduled for 12:45 p.m.
Yesterday, the Senate passed a resolution honoring the astronauts and adjourned legislative business until tomorrow so lawmakers can attend the service.
"Each Columbia crew member was a pioneer," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican. "They would want us to recognize their sacrifices through our comments and through our review of their lives and through comforting of their families. I also know they would want us to determine the cause, to fix that cause and to move on in the same spirit of exploration."
Most of the families were at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Saturday morning waiting to welcome Columbia and its crew members home when they heard news of the explosion. The families met privately in Houston on Sunday.
The families "are doing remarkably well," Evelyn Husband, wife of mission commander Col. Rick D. Husband, 45, told NBC's "Today" show yesterday.
Prior to the mission, and aware of its dangers, Navy Capt. David M. Brown, 46, expressed his desire to see the space program continue in the event of an accident.
"Dave said the program will go on, it must go on," when asked what would happen if he got killed, Paul Brown, his father, said on "Today." "We feel that way, too."
Family and friends of the lost crew, who appeared on national news shows for the first time yesterday, remembered the astronauts as optimists and explorers.
Barbara Anderson, the mother of Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson, 43, remembered his enthusiasm for the space program.
"His life wasn't in vain and will do some good to mankind," she said on CBS' "The Early Show."
Before Col. Husband left on the mission, he completed a form listing his last wishes, should he not return alive.
"Tell them about Jesus. He means everything to me," was Col. Husband's answer, said Pastor Steve Riggle of the Grace Community Church near Houston, where Col. Husband and Col. Anderson attended services.
The day before she died on Columbia, Cmdr. Laurel B. Clark, 41, of Racine, Wis., told friends and family in an e-mail that she felt blessed to be representing the nation and "carrying out the research of scientists around the world."
Audrey McCool, the mother of Cmdr. William C. McCool, 41, remembered her son's upbeat personality. "He had a great smile. He had a great personality to go with that smile," Mrs. McCool said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Kalpana Chawla, 41, was remembered for her big aspirations, even when she was growing up in India.
"She liked to do those things which are, of course, a little unconventional, like, for example, taking aeronautical engineering in the 1970s was a little unconventional for a girl from a small place," said Manju Gupta, Miss Chawla's grade-school classmate.
Rona Ramon, the wife of Israeli combat pilot Ilan Ramon, 48, said her husband was such an optimist that he didn't write a will.
"He thought it was unnecessary," Mrs. Ramon said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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