December 22, 2007

A Tribute From On High

I've refrained from commenting on this matter for a couple of days -- I wasn't sure how to approach it -- but the story in today's Houston Chronicle merits some mention.

International space station astronaut Dan Tani offered a passionate tribute to his mother on Friday, two days before her funeral service in the Chicago suburb of Lombard, Ill.

Rose Tani, 90, died Wednesday of injuries suffered when her car was struck by a freight train in the community 20 miles west of Chicago.

"My mother was a complete joy," said Tani in a statement distributed by NASA, his first public comments on her death. "Those who knew her will know that words cannot describe her vitality, generosity and warmth. She was my hero. We will all miss her dearly."

The tragedy marked the first time an American astronaut has experienced the loss of an immediate family member while on a space mission.

* * *

Services for Rose Tani were scheduled for Sunday at 1:30 p.m., CST, at the First Church of Lombard United Church of Christ, where the family has worshipped for years.

Other survivors include sons Richard and Steven and daughter Christine.

Tani planned to record a tribute to his mother from the space station to be played at Sunday's service.

Also, Tani's family plans to record the service so that it can be transmitted to him later by NASA, said Evans.

My heartfelt condolences go out to the Tani family as they face this shocking tragedy. They are in my prayers at this time.

This is a reminder of something that NASA folks take for granted, but we outside of the space program never even think about.

"Living on the space station means that I experience all aspects of life be they joyous or tragic while circling the Earth without a convenient way to return," said Tani. "Of course, I was aware of this situation before my mission, and I fully accept that I will proudly complete my mission and join my family when I return."

Thursday night, the men from church had our annual Christmas party. I was part of the minority there who had no NASA connection, either current or former NASA employees or contractors. I asked about this situation, and was somewhat surprised to find that there actually was already a protocol for handling this sort of situation. And as Dan Tani points out, the reality of space travel is that there is really no option for coming home in such a situation.

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