On February 1, 2003, the seven crew members were lost with the Space Shuttle Columbia over North Texas during the shuttles re-entry. They were all brave men and women who gave their lives for space explorations.
One member has always stood out to me. Her name was Laurel, Laurel Clark. She would probably agree that growing up there were never any other Laurels around. She may at one time hated her name like I did, only to realize she was actually cool and unique because she was the only one around with that name. To have the name Laurel is not just a name, but a personality trait. I know a few handful of Laurels (mostly from Facebook) today and we all seem to have the same things in common. Most of us always had deep compassion for animals, the Earth and the sky above us, Laurel Clark was no different.
What was different about Laurel Clark is that she was just a handful of people on Earth, EVER, who actually achieved what we all dream. She was an astronaut and got to go to outer space. She had the privilege (she worked very hard to get) to witness our pale blue dot from above as well as breathtaking auroras, lightning and the Sun and Moon rise.
Before she departed to her last shuttle flight home she sent an email to her family and close friends. She told them of every incredible awe-inspiring moment she had been a part of. She and the other 6 members who perished in the Columbia tragedy are true heroes and inspirations to all who come after her. She and the others are my inspiration. My dream too is to be able to see my beautiful planet from above and see the stars shine bright without obstructions in all their glory.
She was the first Laurel in space, who knows? Maybe one day I will be the next?
Rest in peace all the brave crew of the Shuttle Columbia.
Below is Laurel Clark's last message to her loved ones on Earth:
A letter from, Laurel, from space,
"Hello from above our magnificent planet Earth. The perspective is truly awe-inspiring. This is a terrific mission and we are very busy doing science round the clock. Just getting a moment to type e-mail is precious so this will be short, and distributed to many who I know and love.
I have seen some incredible sights: lightning spreading over the Pacific, the Aurora Australis lighting up the entire visible horizon with the cityglow of Australia below, the crescent moon setting over the limb of the Earth, the vast plains of Africa and the dunes on Cape Horn, rivers breaking through tall mountain passes, the scars of humanity, the continuous line of life extending from North America, through Central America and into South America, a crescent moon setting over the limb of our blue planet. Mount Fuji looks life a small bump from up here, but it does stand out as a very distinct landmark.
Magically, the very first day we flew over Lake Michigan and I saw Wind Point (Wisconsin) clearly. Haven't been so lucky since. Every orbit we go over a slightly different part of the Earth. Of course, much of the time I'm working back in Spacehab and don't see any of it. Whenever I do get to look out, it is glorious. Even the stars have a special brightness.
I have seen my 'friend' Orion several times. Taking photos of the earth is a real challenge, but a steep learning curve. I think I have finally gotten some beautiful shots the last 2 days. Keeping my fingers crossed that they're in sharp focus.
My near vision has gotten a little worse up here so you may have seen pics/video of me wearing glasses. I feel blessed to be here representing our country and carrying out the research of scientists around the world. All of the experiments have accomplished most of their goals despite the inevitable hiccups that occur when such a complicated undertaking is undertaken. Some experiments have even done extra science. A few are finished and one is just getting started today.
The food is great and I am feeling very comfortable in this new, totally different environment. It still takes a while to eat as gravity doesn't help pull food down your oesophagus. It is also a constant challenge to stay adequately hydrated. Since our body fluids are shifted toward our heads our sense of thirst is almost non-existent
Thanks to many of you who have supported me and my adventures throughout the years. This was definitely one to beat all. I hope you could feel the positive energy that beamed to the whole planet as we glided over our shared planet.
Love to all, Laurel."