Shuttle commander's widow says NASA must 'fly again'

Sunday, June 8, 2003

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The widow of the commander of the Columbia space shuttle said Saturday that NASA needs to fly again, but she doesn't want it to be "hammered" over irrelevant issues in the investigation of the doomed flight.

"Fix it and fly again," said Evelyn Husband, wife of Rick Husband, who piloted Columbia on its final flight in February. "I would like for them to solve the problem so nobody ever has to go through this again."

Her comments came as the Columbia Accident Investigation Board finished tests and began writing its report on the disaster, set to be completed by the end of July.

In a rare interview, Husband, 44, said she isn't bitter about the accident and doesn't want the space program to become a scapegoat. "I don't want to see NASA hammered over issues that are irrelevant or unfair," she told The Associated Press after a speech at the Women of Faith conference, which drew 9,000 people. "I just don't want there to be a witch hunt just for the sake of a national television audience ... to see NASA get pummeled."

During her speech, Husband recounted her final days with her husband and her memories of the shuttle accident.

Since the tragedy, she has declined most media requests in order to concentrate on helping her children -- 12-year-old Laura and 7-year-old Matthew -- cope with the loss of their father.

Feb. 1, 2003 was "the worst day of my life," she told the audience.

Husband and her children joined other families of Columbia crew members to watch the landing. There was a countdown clock at Cape Canaveral, and she could hear her husband over loudspeakers making final preparations. With five minutes to go, she asked a NASA official when the shuttle would touch down.

"Rick had already died and I didn't have a clue," she said.

When the clock hit zero and began counting forward, she knew something was terribly wrong.

"You just feel like the elevator has gone down in your insides," she said.

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