Shuttle Families Wait for Official Accident Report

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Evelyn Husband's memories of her spouse are still vivid.

Rick Husband (search), commander of the doomed space shuttle Columbia (search), took his job very seriously. But when he came home each night, his family was his focus.

He was able to set work aside "and be a tremendous father and husband and that's why I miss him so much," Evelyn Husband said, her voice cracking. "He would immediately start playing with the kids, help Laura with her homework, get on the floor and wrestle with Matthew, help me with dinner. He was totally devoted to us."

But like the families of the other six astronauts who died in the Feb. 1 disaster, Evelyn Husband is forging ahead with her life. All are dealing with grief and loss as investigators of the accident prepare to issue their report on its cause on Tuesday. Most of the families say they think the investigation has been thorough, and they hope NASA makes changes that will make a difference.

"You have to move on, not dwell on the past," said Dr. Jonathan Clark, whose wife Dr. Laurel Clark (search), was a mission specialist on Columbia. "For us it's to find a new life, a new future. It's a challenge but you can't just quit and say, 'My life is over.' You have to keep on."

Keeping on can be particularly hard for a young child. The Clarks' son, 8-year-old Iain, has fantasized about his mother's return.

"Like he said once about how he was going to develop a magic potion and pour it on her picture and bring her back, things like that," said Clark, a flight surgeon at Johnson Space Center (search). "But I see a tremendous resilience there. He's going through his own tough time, but he's not paralyzed by sadness or depression. It's had a profound effect on our lives, but it hasn't stopped our lives."

Barbara Anderson, mother of astronaut Michael Anderson, said her son would not want family members to stop living out their lives.

"No matter how grieved we are, it's not going to change what happened," she said in a telephone interview from Spokane, Wash. "We are doing OK. I know that's what he would want. We are going on with life as we must do. We just trust in our faith and strength."

Faith also has provided Evelyn Husband and her two children with the means to come to terms with their loss.

"It's what keeps me going. It's what helps me encourage my children that life will continue even though it's incredibly difficult," she said.

Audrey McCool, a professor in Las Vegas, said the public nature of the shuttle accident at times made it overwhelming to deal with the loss of her son, shuttle pilot William McCool.

A memorial ceremony at the Naval Academy in Annapolis was "a perfect send-off for an aviator. It was closure," she said. "The burial also was a very important event for me."

But there are still moments when family members struggle or are pained by memory.

Audrey McCool still remembers when she and her husband, Barry, got up early on the day Columbia was returning to Earth to watch it streak across the sky on its way to Florida.

"It was a very beautiful sight. I guess if you will, it was the last time we saw him," she said.

Girish Chawla, younger brother of Columbia crew member Kalpana Chawla, said he pictures his sister, in the few moments before her death, as a fearless woman who didn't regret the path she chose.

"When I am in my silence, I see her face and still remember her face," said Chawla, who lives in suburban Atlanta. "She still lives in my heart."

The family of astronaut David Brown could not be reached for comment. Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon's wife also could not be reached, and his father, Eliezer Wolferman in Israel, said he wants to wait for the accident report to come out.

For several of the families, the astronauts live on in a variety of ways. Some have charitable funds created in their names to reflect their interests and passions: McCool's fund will help at-risk children and the environment; Chawla's supports science education for underprivileged children; Anderson and David Brown have scholarship funds at their alma maters.

Seven asteroids circling the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter are being named for the astronauts. In Rick Husband's hometown of Amarillo, Texas, the airport was renamed in his honor. India renamed one of its meteorological satellites after Chawla, who grew up there. The National Naval Medical Center in Maryland dedicated a campus auditorium in honor of Laurel Clark, who studied pediatrics at the hospital.

"I hope people understand this was a group of people who worked really hard to get where they were and believed fully in what they were doing," said Clark's brother, Jon Salton in Albuquerque, N.M. "They believed in the program they were supporting. They were a very dedicated group of individuals."