- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

Nearly 2,000 people filed into Washington National Cathedral yesterday morning to attend an interfaith memorial service for the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia.
The front rows filled quickly inside the Gothic cathedral with former NASA administrators, astronauts, Cabinet members and the Israeli diplomatic corps.
Former astronaut and retired U.S. Sen. John Glenn, Ohio Democrat, also attended, along with family members of Columbia astronauts Cmdr. Laurel B. Clark and Capt. David M. Brown.
The Very Rev. Nathan D. Baxter of the National Cathedral offered the invocation, followed by a reading, first in Hebrew and then in English, by Rabbi Warren G. Stone, president of the Washington Board of Rabbis.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe offered tributes to the seven astronauts who died just minutes before their spacecraft was to touch down in Florida on Saturday.
"They were soldiers and scientists, doctors and pilots but, above all, they were explorers," Mr. Cheney told the 1,800 in attendance. "Each of them followed his or her own path to the space program. Each led a life of high purpose and high achievement."
The vice president said the crew members were united not by faith or heritage, but by a calling they answered and shared.
"They were bound together in the great cause of discovery," Mr. Cheney said.
"They were envoys to the unknown. They advanced human understanding by showing human courage. … Every great act of exploration involves great risk. The crew of Columbia accepted that risk in service to all mankind.
"The Columbia is lost, but the dreams that inspired its crew remain with us," Mr. Cheney said.
Rhythm and blues singer Patti LaBelle performed a solo titled "Way Up There," her soulful voice resonating through the mammoth cathedral.
Other speakers paying tribute to the Columbia crew and participating in the service included retired Marine Col. Robert D. Cabana, the Rev. Stephen McWhorter of St. David's Episcopal Church in Ashburn, Va., Brig. Gen. Charles C. Baldwin, deputy chief of chaplains, U.S. Air Force, and the Right Rev. John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington.
Mr. O'Keefe, appointed by President Bush in 2001 as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's 10th administrator, sat in the front row alongside Mr. Cheney and his wife, Lynne.
Mr. O'Keefe spoke about the sadness of the NASA family and the strength displayed by the families who lost their loved ones.
"To be an astronaut is to accept a lofty calling," he said.
"The seven daring souls who we grieve for today represented the best of the human spirit. … They did their chosen calling proud. … They had a special grace.
"Today, we pay tribute to the Columbia astronauts for what they did for us in carrying on the great tradition of the select few we call astronauts," Mr. O'Keefe said.
"For over 40 years, these remarkable men and women, whom we have all come to know proudly wearing their orange spacesuits and blue flight jackets, have played one of history's most unique diplomatic roles," he said.
"And, while this is a difficult period for the men and women of the NASA family … we will persevere. The support that we have received from the astronaut's families, from the president and vice president and from the nation has given us tremendous strength.
The 80-minute service concluded with a prayer and blessing by Bishop Chane.

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