U.S. Navy Captain
Laurel Salton Clark's path to becoming an astronaut evolved over
time. Clark said that while growing up she had an interest in the
environment and animals.
interested in the Moon landings just about the same as everyone
else of my generation," she said. "But, I never really
thought about being an astronaut or working in space myself. I was
very interested in environment and ecosystems and animals."
She said her parents were a huge influence on her life when she
was a child. "They always expected the most out of all of us," she
said, "and expected us to do our very best."
from William Horlick High School in Racine, Wis., in 1979. The following
eight years of her life were spent at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
She earned a bachelor's degree in science in zoology in 1983 and
doctorate in medicine in 1987.
"… the eight
years that I spent at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have
incredibly fond memories of," Clark said. "I did my undergraduate
work there in zoology. And then followed it up with the four years
in medical school. And it's a beautiful place, with four seasons
up in Wisconsin, and really wonderful people."
Her path to
becoming an astronaut included being a member of the U.S. Navy.
During her time in the Navy, Clark became an undersea medical officer.
While stationed in Scotland, she dove with divers and performed
numerous medical evacuations from U.S. submarines. Later, she became
a flight surgeon.
the Navy and was exposed to a lot of different operational environments,
working on submarines and working in tight quarters on ships, and
learning about radiation medicine," Clark said. "And it
was really just sort of a natural progression when I learned about
NASA and what astronauts do, and the type of things that they are
expected to do, that I thought about the things I had done so far
and became more interested in that as a career."
Mission Specialist Laurel Clark made her first space
flight on STS-107. She was a Naval pilot and flight
surgeon. This feature video was produced before STS-107
launched on Jan. 16, 2003.
Clark as an astronaut candidate in 1996. She successfully completed
her training and evaluation. Prior to receiving her first flight
assignment, she worked in the Astronaut Office Payloads/Habitability
her first space flight on Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-107
as a mission specialist. The extended-duration mission was dedicated
to scientific research. The STS-107 crew successfully conducted
more than 80 experiments. Prior to the start of the mission, she
said that the crew would enjoy its view of Earth.
incredibly lucky to be able to be working where we are up above
the Earth and being able to see our planet from that vantage point,"
On Feb. 1,
Clark and the STS-107 crew perished during re-entry as Columbia
broke up over Texas en route to a landing in Florida. She amassed
15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes in space. Astronaut Office Chief
Kent Rominger said that Clark had an outgoing personality and loved
her work. "Laurel -- the dedicated professional with a wide variety
of talents," he said. "She was also the queen of STS-107 paraphernalia.
She had a different pastel crew shirt for each day of the week complemented
with crew patches and matching crew earrings. She had a perpetual
smile, and would never send an e-mail or phone if she could find
you in person."
She is survived
by her husband and son. She said that her most enjoyable experience
outside of her astronaut career was being a mother. "…motherhood's
been incredible," she said, "and I tell my son all the
time that my most important job is being his mother."
Rominger also said that even though she was devoted to her work,
Clark's family was a priority in her life. "But no matter how
hectic the day, she inspired us with her ability to always reserve
time and energy for her family," he said.
During a memorial
service at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 4, 2003,
President George W. Bush emphasized Clark's love for her family
and her work.
Salton Clark was a physician and a flight surgeon who loved adventure,
loved her work, loved her husband and her son," he said. "A
friend who heard Laurel speaking to Mission Control said there was
a smile in her voice. Laurel conducted some of the experiments as
Columbia orbited the Earth and described seeing new life emerged
from a tiny cocoon. 'Life,' she said, 'continues in a lot of places
and life is a magical thing.'"