NASA officials and law officers continued the grim task of collecting debris and in some cases human remains from the space shuttle Columbia today in an expansive search that stretched through eastern Texas and western Louisiana.
As startling as the home videos of the Columbia's disintegration were, it was the head shots of the seven astronauts that furnished the most heart-wrenching visual.
Bright, sharp-looking men and women in their 40s, they were the epitome of the best and brightest this nation and Israel has to offer. They were scholars with advanced degrees but they were also active adventurers who weren't content to sit on the academic sidelines of science. Dr. David Brown had been a collegiate gymnast who worked summers as a circus performer. Pilot William McCool was an Eagle Scout. Dr. Laurel Clark was a Navy flight surgeon who enjoyed flying, scuba diving and parachuting.
They were also parents, sons and daughters, each with their own proud family which was anxiously waiting for their safe return.
Beyond the deep personal loss to the families of the astronauts, the Columbia tragedy was an immense loss in terms of human potential. Think what these ambitious men and women would have achieved in their post-flight years.
Many Americans may be indifferent to space travel, a testament to NASA's overall safety record, but no one can be indifferent about the loss of brave and bright adventurers who are willing to place their lives on the line for their country.
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