Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 1: Laurel Clark

Laurel Blair Salton Clark
March 10, 1961 – February 1, 2003

Laurel Clark was a medical doctor, United States Navy Captain, NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle mission specialist who was killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Clark underwent six months of aeromedical training at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute in Pensacola, Florida and was designated as a Naval Flight Surgeon. She was stationed at MCAS Yuma, Arizona and assigned as Flight Surgeon for a Marine Corps AV-8B Night Attack Harrier Squadron (VMA 211). She made several deployments, including one overseas to the Western Pacific, practiced medicine in austere environments, and flew on multiple aircraft. Her squadron won the Marine Attack Squadron of the year for its successful deployment. She was then assigned as the Group Flight Surgeon for the Marine Aircraft Group (MAG 13).

Before her selection as an astronaut candidate she served as a Flight Surgeon for the Naval Flight Officer advanced training squadron (VT-86) in Pensacola, Florida. Clark was Board Certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and held a Wisconsin Medical License. Her military qualifications included Radiation Health Officer, Undersea Medical Officer, Diving Medical Officer, Submarine Medical Officer, and Naval Flight Surgeon. She was a Basic Life Support Instructor, Advanced Cardiac Life Support Provider, Advanced Trauma Life Support Provider, and Hyperbaric Chamber Advisor.

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Clark reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. After completing two years of training and evaluation, she was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. From July 1997 to August 2000 Clark worked in the Astronaut Office Payloads/Habitability Branch. Clark flew aboard STS-107, logging 15 days, 22 hours, and 20 minutes in space.

STS-107 Columbia – The 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. Clark's bioscience experiments included gardening in space, as she discussed only days before her death in an interview with Milwaukee media near her Wisconsin hometown. The STS-107 mission ended abruptly on February 1, 2003, when Columbia and her crew perished during re-entry, 16 minutes before scheduled landing.

Life continues in lots of places -- and life is a magical thing.
—Laurel Clark, in reference to her rose bushes.
  • Asteroid 51827 Laurelclark was named for Clark.
  • Clark Hill in the Columbia Hills on Mars was named for Clark
  • Clark Hall, in the Columbia Village apartments, at the Florida Institute of Technology is named after her.
  • Dr. Laurel Salton Clark Memorial Fountain, in Racine, WI
  • Laurel B. Clark and David M. Brown Aerospace Medicine Academic Center, located at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute

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