Monday, February 3, 2003

Space station crew grieving but proud

HOUSTON - The three-man crew at the International Space Station was grieving but still proud to be on its mission after being told about the Columbia disaster Sunday morning by a NASA official.

Bob Cabana, director of flight crew operations, said he told the astronauts about the accident roughly 24 hours after Columbia disintegrated 39 miles over Texas.

"Mostly it was just sharing. I shared with them," Cabana said. "They're grieving up there, also. And they feel a little isolated. We're keeping them fully informed."

The latest crew arrived at the space station in November and is scheduled is scheduled to return to Earth in March. The crew consists of NASA astronauts Ken Bowersox and Don Pettit and Russian Soyuz commander Nikolai Budarin.

"They want to get through this process. And it's harder for them being detached from it in space," Cabana said. "But all I can tell you is they're in tremendous spirits. They're proud to be where they are."

Cabana said he assured Bowersox that he would tell the crew anything learned from the Columbia investigation. He also shared stories about Columbia's crew.

"I talked about better memories, about (an) on-orbit video conference I had with them and how happy they were to be there, and how much it meant to them to be contributing on this mission. And those are the memories I'm always going to cherish," Cabana said.

He also said Bowersox, Pettit and Budarin were glad to hear about the successful launch of a supply ship, and are looking forward to its arrival Tuesday morning at the space station.

The unmanned Russian cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sunday. It is delivering fuel, equipment, food and mail for the trio.

(Complete Columbia coverage at

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