Bush Vows Space Program to Continue; DoD Aids Search
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2003 America's space program will go on, President Bush vowed today at a memorial service for the seven Columbia astronauts in Houston.
President Bush addresses the nation from the NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston during a memorial service Feb. 4, 2003, in honor of the seven astronauts who died in the space shuttle Columbia disaster. "This cause of exploration and discovery is not an option we choose; it is a desire written in the human heart," Bush said. "We find the best among us, send them forth into unmapped darkness, and pray they will return. They go in peace for all mankind, and all mankind is in their debt." White House photo by Paul Morse.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Bush spoke at the Johnson Space Center. He said the cause of exploration and discovery "is not an option we choose; it is a desire written in the human heart."
"We are that part of creation which seeks to understand all creation," he said. "We find the best among us, send them forth into unmapped darkness and pray they will return. They go in peace for all mankind, and all mankind is in their debt."
The seven astronauts killed when the Columbia broke up upon returning to Earth Saturday were Air Force Col. Rick D. Husband, Navy Cmdr. William C. McCool, Air Force Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson, Navy Capt. (Dr.) David M. Brown, Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Israeli air force Col. Ilan Ramon and civilian engineer Kalpana Chawla.
Bush said the nation was "blessed to have such men and women serving in our space program."
He said the loss of the astronauts is a tough blow, especially at the Houston space facility. The president made a reference to the Challenger explosion that killed seven astronauts just over 17 years ago.
"The people in NASA are being tested once again," Bush said. "In your grief, you are responding as your friends would have wished: with focus, professionalism and unbroken faith in the mission of this agency."
Even as Bush delivered his remarks in Houston, DoD personnel continued to help with the aftermath of the disaster.
National Guard forces led the way. Officials estimated that debris from the orbiter fell over a 23,000-square-mile area, and the governors of Texas and Louisiana called guardsmen to duty to help local officials.
In Texas, the 6th Civil Support Team is helping in the identification and handling of debris from Columbia. That team will be joined by the 61st Civil Support Team from Arkansas and the 63rd CST from Oklahoma.
The Texas Guard also provided 118 other personnel, two Kiowa helicopters, five Black Hawk helicopters, four Apache choppers and a C-130 Hercules aircraft.
In Louisiana, the Guard is helping man the State Emergency Operations Center and is providing vehicles and helicopters.
Immediately following the disaster, a number of active duty military aircraft helped search the area. Helicopters from Fort Hood, Texas, launched to aid in finding and protecting debris. Air Force planes and helicopters searched the area and helped pinpoint the debris field. Other aircraft transported personnel and equipment to the area.
Debris from the strewn wreckage is being sent to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., for storage and further review.
The National Imagery and Mapping Agency aided U.S. Strategic Command and NASA in debris field analysis.
The U.S. Coast Guard had a cutter search the Gulf of Mexico and has aircraft standing by to aid the searchers if called.