An Astronaut’s Husband, Left Behind | WBEZ
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Death, Sex & Money

An Astronaut’s Husband, Left Behind

Dr. Jonathan Clark and his eight year-old son Iain watched the space shuttle Columbia launch from Kennedy Space Center on January 16, 2003. Sixteen days later, Columbia exploded upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Jon's wife, Dr. Laurel Clark, was one of seven astronauts killed in the disaster. 

Jon and Laurel met because they were both doctors in the Navy, so they weren't strangers to risk. They shared a passion for scuba diving, and just months before the Columbia launch, their small plane crashed as they were flying to New Mexico. "I still have flashbacks about that," says Jon. "You crash, and you either live or you die." Jon says he thought about that a lot in the aftermath of the Columbia explosion. "In this case they died. And, you know, it’s over. And the hard part, quite honestly, is living."

Jon says he remembers everything from the day of the explosion—except for later that night, when his fellow NASA buddies got him pass-out drunk. As time went on, he had to learn how to be a single parent to his son, and how to process Laurel's death in his own way—which, for him, meant joining the NASA team that studied every detail of the Columbia disaster. 

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