Campus reacts to shuttle disaster

The flag flies at half-staff in memory of the crewmembers of Columbia.

Bill Shepherd

The flag flies at half-staff in memory of the crewmembers of Columbia.

Michelle Conty

The Space Shuttle Columbia flared and broke up in the skies over Texas on Feb. 1 killing the seven astronauts on board.

At Missouri Southern, the campus remembered the crew members.

“We lowered the flag to halfmast in memory of the astronauts,” said College President Julio León.

The disaster, almost 17 years to the day that seven astronauts were killed in the Challenger explosion, places the space shuttle program on hold.

“There have been so many flights since the Challenger, that they have become almost routine, and we have come to expect that the mission would be carried out safely without problems,” León said. “We take it for granted. We tend to forget just how dangerous it is and how much the astronauts are risking. So it’s a tragedy that reminds us the dangerous type of activity that one or two of our graduates are involved in.”

Three-flight veteran Dr. Janet Kavandi graduated from Southern with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry in 1980. Kavandi as well as other members of NASA were unable to comment due to a gag order.

Maj. Tony Moffatt graduated in 1997 with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics. He is currently on loan to the space program from the U.S. Army.

News reports said Columbia lost contact with the ground around 9 a.m. EST Feb. 1 and fell apart in minutes as it headed for a landing after a largely trouble-free, 16-day mission dedicated to science.

“Six months ago I lost my mom, and my grandmother is terminally ill,” said Gayle Castor, senior graphic arts major. “Knowing how it feels to lose someone close to you, my heart goes out to the family of those on board.”

“We’ve become complacent to space travel, but the fact that this happened when they were on their way home, they were safe and had accomplished what they had went for and at the last minute, they lost it all,” said Waudenna Agee, library secretary.