February 2 ~  Life Science Research Voyages of Columbia

"I still feel very fortunate to be assigned to the mission...because we're doing such exciting...life science research. It's just a great feeling to be part of the team of researchers and investigators that have been working for years to bring this all to fruition." ~ Laurel Clark

Celebrate our wonderful planet

One of seven astronauts lost in the 2003 Shuttle Columbia explosion, Mission Specialist Laurel Blair Salton Clark (1961-2003) was making her first flight into space and had anxiously waited two years to make the trip.

In a teleconferencing call from space, she said, "It's just an incredibly magical place."

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Clark was born in Iowa, and called Racine, Wisconsin her home. A flight surgeon with three Navy commendation medals, she was married with an eight year old son.

"I tell my son all the time that my most important job is being his mother," she said in a NASA interview.

On shuttle's 16-day, around-the-clock science mission, Clark and the crew worked from 86 payloads supporting 79 experiments. Some of the life science research included studying prostate cancer and bone cells, how the human body adapts to space, the Earth’s ozone layer, changes in the immune system, and bone mass.

"I have a family history of osteoporosis that goes back several different generations," Clark explained. "And I like to think that we'll be learning some things that will help not only my family but the other millions of Americans that are affected by osteoporosis."

Amid the work, Clark found time to watch a sunset. She said, "There's a flash - the whole payload bay turns this rosy pink," she said. "It only lasts about 15 seconds and then it's gone. It's very ethereal and extremely beautiful."

This was the first accident during descent in NASA's 42-year history of human spaceflight. President George W. Bush said the terrible news had brought "great sadness to our country." But he added, "Our journey into space will go on."

Bold EndeavorsRemember and let the journey continue...