Columbia’s 7 astronauts were close, diverse crew
by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer
January 30, 2013 03:55 PM | 505 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The seven astronauts who died aboard space shuttle Columbia 10 years ago were husbands, fathers, wives and a mother. Military pilots, doctors and engineers. Born in the United States, Israel and India.

“It’s amazing to me how cohesive they were with the diverse backgrounds that they had,” said the widow of Columbia’s last commander, Evelyn Husband Thompson.

“They had a genuine affection for each other that was just tremendous. And they had fun together. I mean, what a blessing at whatever job you’re in, to have fun with your co-workers,” she said in a phone interview from Houston this week.

A brief look at the seven Columbia astronauts and their immediate survivors:

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Commander Rick Husband, 45, an Air Force colonel from Amarillo, Texas, who was making his second space shuttle flight. Wife Evelyn lives in Houston with 17-year-old son Matthew, a high school sophomore, and new husband Bill Thompson. Daughter Laura, 22, is a seminary student pursuing a master’s degree in theology. The ordeal, and the family’s faith in God, prompted Evelyn to write a memoir about Rick in 2004 titled “High Calling.”

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Co-pilot William McCool, 41, a Navy commander from Lubbock, Texas, who was making his first space shuttle flight. Wife Lani and three sons, now in their 20s and 30s. The oldest, Sean, is a Marine captain with three children of his own. Middle son Christopher is a photographer who works with high school debate teams, according to family. The youngest, Cameron, is finishing a master’s degree in fine arts in New York.

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Flight engineer Kalpana Chawla, 40, an Indian-born engineer who was making her second space shuttle flight. Husband Jean-Pierre Harrison remarried and has a young son. He runs a publishing company in Los Gatos, Calif., and, in 2011, wrote what he calls the authoritative biography of his first wife, “The Edge of Time.” He reveals how Kalpana’s birthdate was misrepresented to be a year earlier than it actually was, so she could start school sooner at her insistence.

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Payload commander Michael Anderson, 43, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force from Spokane, Wash., and one of NASA’s few early black astronauts. Wife Sandra still lives in Houston. Daughters Kaycee and Sydney are now 19 and 21.

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Dr. Laurel Clark, 41, a Navy captain and medical doctor from Racine, Wis., who was making her first space shuttle flight. Husband Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon. Son Iain, 18, will graduate from boarding school in Arizona this spring. Clark has dedicated himself to improving space crew safety, and helped bring skydiver Felix Baumgartner back alive from a 24-mile-high jump from the stratosphere last fall.

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Dr. David Brown, 46, a Navy captain and medical doctor who grew up in Virginia and was making his first space shuttle flight. He was single.

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Ilan Ramon, 48, a fighter pilot who became the first Israeli in space with Columbia’s launch. Wife Rona lives in Israel. Their oldest son, Asaf, became a fighter pilot like his father and died, at age 21, in a 2009 training accident. One surviving son is a combat soldier in Israel; another is studying music in college. The youngest, a daughter, is 15. Rona Ramon went back to school after her son’s death. She works as a grief counselor.

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Online: NASA history and Columbia.

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