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Shuttle Disaster

Astronaut's family shares their memories

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2003


HOUSTON, Texas -- Less than two days before the space shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas, Iain Clark wrote his astronaut mother onboard, saying he missed her.

"I want to snuggle with you in my fort. Come home soon or sooner if possible," the 8-year-old boy wrote. "I miss you millions more than all the stars in the universes. I love you so much I cried last night."

The e-mail sent to Columbia crew member Laurel Clark was shared with the Houston Chronicle by her husband, NASA flight surgeon Jonathan Clark.

Speaking publicly as he and the surviving family members of the Columbia astronauts prepared to attend funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery, Clark said the close-knit group gets together about once a week for a "big group cry."

Laurel Clark was buried Monday, on what would have been her 42nd birthday. A service for astronaut Michael Anderson was held Friday, and services for astronaut David Brown are later this week.

Clark said he is doing his best to fill the void left by his wife, although both he and his son miss snuggling with her. "Now we just share our memories of her."

ENGINEER'S E-MAILS: The NASA engineer who sounded the most alarms during the flight of the space shuttle Columbia about dangers to its crew said Monday he was uneasy on the morning of its landing attempt because there were "ambiguities" about how seriously the craft was damaged. But he said he never anticipated the shuttle's loss and the deaths of all those aboard.

Robert Daugherty, a veteran flight engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., attracted the attention of Congress and a special accident investigation board because he wrote private e-mails while the crew was orbiting that described potential disaster scenarios and warned that "getting information is being treated like the plague."

"I absolutely wouldn't change a word. I feel very comfortable with what I said and how I said it," said Daugherty. But he said he felt one of his e-mails had been misconstrued in public accounts and that NASA engineers in Texas had acted appropriately after taking his concerns seriously.

SPACE STATION: Russian space officials are warning that the international space station will have to be mothballed unless the United States or another partner in the huge project comes up with $100-million to pay for more Russian spacecraft to supply a skeleton crew on the station.

Alexei Krasnov, deputy head of international cooperation for the Russian space agency, Rosaviakosmos, said in an interview that Russia alone has been called on to keep the football field-sized station supplied after NASA grounded its three remaining shuttles last month. But "no one has come up with a suggestion on how to procure the funds" for extra supply ships, he said.

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