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Dr. Jonathan Clark, husband of Columbia astronaut Laurel Clark, stands with his son, Iain Clark, 18, in December.
Dr. Jonathan Clark
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Date published: 1/31/2013
AP Aerospace Writer
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.--He was just 8 when NASA lost the space shuttle Columbia and he lost his astronaut mom. Now, 10 years later, Iain Clark is a young man on the cusp of college with a master's rating in scuba diving and three parachute jumps in his new log book.
His mother, Dr. Laurel Clark, loved scuba and skydiving.
So did her flight surgeon husband and Iain's dad, Dr. Jonathan Clark, who since the Feb. 1, 2003 accident, has been a crusader for keeping space crews safe.
Altogether, 12 children lost a parent aboard Columbia. The youngest is now 15, the oldest 32. One became a fighter pilot in Israel, just like his father, and also died tragically in a crash. The oldest son of the pilot of Columbia is now a Marine captain with three young children of his own. The commander's daughter is a seminary student.
"It's tough losing a mom, that's for sure. I think Iain was the most affected," said Clark, a neurologist. "My goal was to keep him alive. That was the plan. It was kind of dicey for a while. There was a lot of darkness--for him and me."
Clark's wife and six other astronauts--Commander Rick Husband, co-pilot William McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Dr. David Brown and Israeli Ilan Ramon--were killed in the final minutes of their 16-day scientific research mission aboard Columbia.
The space shuttle, with a wing damaged during launch, ripped apart in the Texas skies while headed for a landing at Kennedy Space Center. NASA will remember the Columbia dead at a public memorial service at Kennedy on Friday morning.
Clark, now 59 and long gone from NASA, said he turned to alcohol in the aftermath of Columbia. If it wasn't for his son, he doubts he would have gotten through it. "He's the greatest kid ever," Clark said in a phone interview from Houston with The Associated Press. "He cares about people. He's kind of starting to get his confidence, but he's not at all cocky."
Iain is set to graduate this spring from a boarding school in Arizona; he wants to study marine biology at a university in Florida.