Lu Remembers Columbia
American astronaut Edward Lu climbs on board the International
Space Station for a six-month stay, he'll be thinking about the
last American crew to launch into space. He calls it a tribute to
the seven astronauts who died Feb. 1 aboard the shuttle
"We are doing what I think they would have wanted and what their
families would have wanted us to do - continue the process of
flying into space," Lu said.
"This is a very important flight because of the fact that we are
the first ones after STS-107,” he said at the Baikonur
Cosmodrome in Kazhikstan Friday. “They accomplished their
mission, but they never completed it. In fact, one of the things
I’m going to do during the launch is I’m going to wear
an STS-107 patch here on my sleeve in their honor, and we’ll
be thinking about them during the lift-off and during the
He was speaking one day before lifting off from the in a Soyuz
TMA-2 capsule which will rendesvous with the ISS Monday afternoon.
Lu, 39, and his mission commander, Russian Col. Yuri Malenchenko,
41, will spend six months alone on the ISS after they relieve U.S.
station commander Ken Bowersox, flight engineer Donald Pettit and
Russian flight engineer Nikolai Budarin. That trio has been in
space an extra month because, in the wake of the Columbia disaster,
all space shuttles have been grounded.
Good Friends, Close Quarters
Lu and Malenchenko have teamed up before. They flew to the ISS
in 2000, making it ready for permanent habitation. They even
performed a six-hour long spacewalk together.
It's a good thing they're such close friends. The third
astronaut slated for ISS Mission 7, Russian Alexander Kaleri, was
bumped from the flight to conserve expendables like food and water.
Fewer astronauts on board means fewer resupply flights. As a
result, Mission 7 has been reduced to a maintenance and habitation
mission. Lu and Malenchenko are going up to keep the lights on and
fix whatever breaks.
"But we still have an important mission and we are well
prepared," said Col. Malenchenko.
Referring to the ill-fated crew of Columbia, Dr. Lu said, "We'll
be thinking about them during the flight up and on the way