- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2003

Visitors to the Arlington National Cemetery and the National Air and Space Museum yesterday mourned the crew of Space Shuttle Columbia but said manned missions to space must continue or else the seven astronauts will have died in vain.
In Arlington, Debbie McCallum, a photographer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration since 1973, placed a red rose at the base of the monument, built to honor the seven astronauts of Space Shuttle Challenger who died on Jan. 28, 1986, shortly after takeoff.
Miss McCallum said she was honoring all 17 NASA astronauts killed during space exploration, but was especially grieving the loss of the seven aboard Columbia.
"Those people stood for something really important," she said. "We have to remember them, and it is important that we carry on the mission and never forget how important they really were."
Miss McCallum said the walk through the cemetery left her awe-struck by the nation's commitment to conquering space. She also said the United States should stay committed.
She said she was struck by the feeling while trekking from the memorial for President Kennedy, who vowed an American would be the first on the moon, to the Challenger memorial, which commemorates astronauts who died at a time when space travel had become almost routine.
The number of visitors at the Challenger memorial was more than usual yesterday, said cemetery staffers.
The Columbia crew also was in the thoughts of Michael Marciniak, 31, a laboratory technician and Army National Guard lieutenant from Durham, N.C. He was visiting the Kennedy memorial with his family. His 2-year-old daughter, Michaela, straddled his shoulders.
"You cannot help but think about it, being at such an honorable place," Lt. Marciniak said. He also said the Columbia astronauts deserved the same respect paid to fallen soldiers.
"It is like any service," Lt. Marciniak said. "You raise your right hand and swear to serve the United States. Their deaths should not deter us from the mission and from exploring space. If anything, it should be a driving force to carry on."
At the Smithsonian museum, Dan Enniss, 38, a janitor from Cleveland, said the exhibits gave him a clearer understanding of the scientific advances for which the Columbia crew gave their lives.
He said that the nation must keep sending men and women into space.
"If we don't, it means everyone who has risked everything has died in vain," Mr. Enniss said as he and his two children Jennifer, 13, and John, 11 stood beside a replica of Sputnik 1.
With its launch Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Sputnik became the first artificial satellite and touched off the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Standing in the museum wing dedicated to the Apollo missions that landed the first men on the moon in 1969, Elaine Phipps, 44, an information technology consultant from Boise, Idaho, said that most people don't fully appreciate the value of the space program.
"A lot of the space travel has become commonplace," she said. "It seems we don't hear much about it anymore unless something tragic happens."
Lee Judd, 76, a retired autoworker from Flint, Mich., said the explosion of the Columbia undoubtedly would set back the space program but the United States must keep sending astronauts into space.
"Look how far we have come now," he said. "We have to keep our eyes open for safety, though. It seems that every time we relax, an accident happens."
A group of about 20 school girls, members of the Safety Patrol from Addison Mizner Middle School in Boca Raton, Fla., had mixed views about the need for manned missions to space, but they all mourned the deaths of the Columbia astronauts.
"I'm speechless," Caitlin Murray, 11, said as she and her fifth-grade classmates sat on the floor under a replica of the Wright brothers' airplane.
Lily Walker, 10, said the space program should use only unmanned craft.
"People shouldn't get hurt," she said. "I'd never become an astronaut. I don't think it is that safe."
Lauren Reah, 11, disagreed. "I think it is worth it. You get to see a lot of neat things that you never get to see on Earth," she said. "It's cool."
Their chaperon, fourth-grade teacher Lisa Watts, said she still was reeling from news of Columbia's disintegration during re-entry.
"I'm just devastated," she said. "I really feel for all the families and people connected to the astronauts, but we should continue the space program, absolutely. There are always new concepts and ideas and technologies to be developed."
In another part of the museum, Air Force Master Sgt. Patrick Riley was standing beneath a space shuttle model glowing with Christmas lights. The model hung at the entrance to the exhibit "Beyond the Limits: Flight Enters the Computer Age."
Master Sgt. Riley said the Columbia crew and others serving their country should be honored for their lives, not because of their deaths.
"Every day people in NASA and the armed forces risk their lives, and it is a shame that it takes something like this for us to recognize that," he said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide