Tragedy Strikes Space Programme

By Antony
February 1, 2003 - 11:35 PM

The Columbia crew - copyright NASA, courtesy of CNNSeven NASA astronauts lost their lives today when their space shuttle was destroyed as it attempted re-entry.

President Bush paid tribute to the crew. "These men and women assumed great risk in this service to all humanity," he said in a televised address to the US. "In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine, it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the earth.

"These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage and daring and idealism, we will miss them all the more."

The astronauts that lost their lives were Colonel Rick Husband, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Anderson, Commander Laurel Clark, Captain David Brown, Commander William McCool, Dr. Kalpana Chawla, and Ilan Ramon. Ramon was a colonel in the Israeli air force, and was the first Israeli in space. Speaking before the launch, Ramon said: "I know my flight is very symbolic for the people of Israel, especially the survivors, the Holocaust survivors, because I was born in Israel, many people will see this as a dream that is come true."

Columbia was NASA's oldest space shuttle, and was commissioned in 1981. It became the first shuttle to fly in space following the successful atmospheric test flights of its sister ship Enterprise. It began its ill fated last mission 16 days ago, when it launched to carry out a number of scientific studies for NASA and the European, Japanese, German and Canadian space agencies which apparently gained unprecedented data. Their tests were varied, and included studies of ant, bee and spider behavior in weightlessness, as well as changes in flames and flower scents in orbit. They also gained photographs of unusual electrical phenomena above thunderstorms, and produced a large cancer tumor that would have been used to advance medical research.

It was back in 1986 that Challenger exploded a minute after take off, killing all seven astronauts on board. 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home' was dedicated to the crew, and a message at the beginning of the film read: "The cast and crew of Star Trek wish to dedicate this film to the men and women of the spaceship Challenger whose courageous spirit shall live to the 23rd century and beyond." It is unknown whether Star Trek will again pay any sort of tribute, by perhaps putting a message on Enterprise.

We're sure our readers will join us in expressing our condolences to the families of those killed in this tragedy.

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