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In Tribute to Columbia Shuttle Astronauts
Seven astronauts who died 1 February 2003 aboard the space shuttle Columbia gave their lives in service to science and to others, and will serve as an inspiration for generations to come, saddened AAAS officials said.
"We deeply lament the Columbia space shuttle tragedy," AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner said. "We give tribute to the seven astronauts who lost their lives, and we extend our sympathies to their families and friends. Those lost aboard Columbia were upholding a lengthy tradition of courageous space exploration in pursuit of scientific advances."
Albert H. Teich, head of the AAAS Directorate for Science and Policy Programs, applauded the response of U.S. President George W. Bush, who has said that our journey into space will go on, despite the disaster.
"The Columbia explosion was an unimaginable tragedy, and our hearts go out to all those affected by the disaster," Teich said. "But, any slowdown in space exploration would compound the loss, and be a disservice to the memory of those who died in their quest for new knowledge."
AAAS member Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, a professor in the history of science and technology at the University of Minnesota, noted that life-changing discoveries often have demanded extraordinary courage. "Being an explorer of the natural world and beyond has required people with a spirit of adventure and willingness to operate at the edge of what we know well," Kohlstedt said. "Indeed, science and exploration go hand in hand. The risks involved exploring the boundaries are evident to those involved, but explorers accept reasonable risks in anticipation of the reward of advanced knowledge."
Some of history's great scientist-adventurers are well known, such as Sir Robert Franklin, who perished with his entire crew while attempting to find the Northwest Passage, Kohlstedt noted. Many more are people whose participation in exploration was fundamental, such as Robert Kennicott, who died young while exploring in Alaska in the 1860san expedition that contributed to the purchase of Alaska. "Thus," Kohlsted concluded, "it is appropriate that we acknowledge the seven individual men and women whose drive and commitment led them each to complete the strenuous training that allowed them to be certified to join in the risky and rewarding business of space travel. We also remember the extraordinary team they established on the Space Shuttle Columbia among themselves, and with their ground colleagues, as symbolic of the way scientific discovery is achieved."
The space shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas just 16 minutes before it was scheduled to land in Florida, the morning of Saturday, 1 February. Lost aboard the Columbia were:
- Michael Anderson, 43, payload commander, of Spokane, Washington, one of only a few African American astronauts
- David Brown, 46, a Navy captain, pilot and doctor.
- Kalpana Chawla, 41, who emigrated to the United States from Indian in the 1980s
- Laurel Clark, 41, Navy diving medical officer and flight surgeon of Racine, Wisconsin, and the mother of an 8-year-old son
- Rick Husband, 45, commander and Air Force colonel, of Amarillo, Texas
- William McCool, 41, pilot, Navy commander of Lubbock, Texas, and the father of three sons
- Ilan Ramon, 48, Israeli air force colonel and the first Israeli in space, whose mother survived the Auschwitz concentration camp
The shuttle tragedy was a devastating blow to the cause of global science, AAAS officials said. The multi-national composition of the Columbia crew represented scientific talent from around the world.
The cause of the explosion was still under investigation as of 3 February. For the latest information on the disaster, see www.ABCNews.com.
3 February 2003