The first Iowa woman in space says last month’s crash of the shuttle Columbia will -not- keep Americans from reaching skyward. Mount Ayr native Peggy Whitson, who returned in December from six months aboard the International Space Station, says the urge to explore is something hard-wired into humans. Despite the loss of seven astronauts with the Columbia disaster, Whitson makes it clear, she’d love to go back into orbit. She says “There will always be risks to flying in space, I think we all recognize that…but the fear is way overcome by the excitement that we feel.” Speaking Sunday at the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines, Whitson says “our culture will stagnate if it doesn’t continue to explore the depths of the ocean and outer space.” She says the space program has brought all sorts of medical advances and changed our lives in many ways, including the development of microwave ovens and even T-V remote controls. Whitson says three of the astronauts who died in the Columbia crash were in her same astronaut class and she knew all seven of them. She says many hundreds of people are working very hard to determine what happened in the February first accident.She says NASA will learn what went wrong on Columbia, fix it, minimize future risk and move on.
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