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A Chat with the Space Station Crew

In the wake of the Feb. 1 loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its seven-person crew, NASA has suspended all manned flights to space. But a few humans remain in Earth orbit -- the three-man crew of the International Space Station. NPR's Scott Simon spoke with the ISS astronauts about their reaction to Columbia's loss.

"The whole situation was very personal for us because we knew those guys who were on [Columbia mission] STS-107 very well," Ken Bowersox, the American commander of the Expedition Six crew, told Simon. "They were good friends. We had contact with them here and we shared a mission -- a mission to explore and a mission to do science in space. So it was very painful."

NASA officials have said they want to bring the Expedition Six crew back home in late April. Because the shuttle fleet is grounded, the crew will have to use the Russian-made Soyuz escape vehicle already docked at the station for the voyage home.

The crew, which also includes Russian flight engineer Nikolai Budarin and American science officer Don Petit, was originally scheduled to return aboard the space shuttle Atlantis in March. Bowersox says the crew is mentally prepared for the extension in their stay.

"We enjoy the environment, we enjoy being on the space station," Bowersox said. "If we get extra time here, that's actually going to be a good thing."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.