© St. Petersburg Times, published February 6, 2003
WASHINGTON -- House and Senate committees with oversight of the space program will convene a joint hearing Wednesday to begin their inquiries into what caused the breakup of the shuttle Columbia.
Members of the Senate Commerce Committee and the House subcommittee on space and aeronautics will hear from the NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe, in their first opportunity to raise questions in public about the disaster.
PANEL OKAYS TAX BREAKS: The families of crew members who flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia would qualify for income tax and estate tax relief under legislation approved Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee.
Under the bill, no federal tax would be owed on the income earned for this year or 2002 by members of the crew who perished when the shuttle broke apart last weekend.
Also exempt from taxation is any death benefit paid by the government in connection with the accident.
CAPE CANAVERAL -- The launch of an unmanned Delta IV rocket has been delayed out of respect for the space shuttle Columbia disaster.
The rocket launch, scheduled for Friday, was to be the first since the disaster.
The earliest time the launch at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station could be rescheduled is Monday, said Robert Villanueva, a spokesman for Boeing.
The rocket will carry an Air Force satellite that will be part of the country's national security communications network.
NEW YORK -- The Jewish National Fund America has had a surge in sales of trees to be planted in Israel in the aftermath of the shuttle disaster.
More than 3,000 trees have been sold in memory of the Columbia astronauts, breaking previous records for tree sales, and Russell Robinson, the fund's chief executive, said his counterparts abroad were reporting similar sales.
Col. Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who died on the Columbia, mentioned tree planting in a chat from space with Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, on Jan. 21.