Over the past two years, we've heard a lot about how the shuttle Columbia's seven astronauts died. But how did they live?
That part of the tragic tale is addressed in "Astronaut Diaries," an hourlong documentary premiering this weekend on the Discovery Science Channel. The show draws heavily on cassette upon cassette of home videos shot by Columbia crew member David Brown, a former circus clown and physician who was on his very first spaceflight.
In addition to his other talents, Brown was a budding filmmaker, and he made it his mission to show the months of training leading up to the Columbia mission in January 2003.
"He wanted to be able to distribute something via the astronauts," Brown's older brother, Doug, told The Washington Post. "When they'd go out to speak, this would be a way for them to have a tape about the training."
After the tragedy, Doug Brown and other members of the astronauts' families, along with expert commentators, helped the Discovery team sharpen the story chronicled in David Brown's hundreds of hours of videos — producing a candid look at seven men and women who first became a team, and ultimately became the heroes of an international tragedy.
The crew's lives and legacies are also the focus of a new book by space reporter Philip Chien, "Columbia: Final Voyage." Chien drew upon his own reporting from before, during and after the star-crossed mission, supplemented by the reminiscences of Doug Brown and other family members. A companion CD-ROM contains more than 1,000 photos, audio and video clips, as well as technical information about the Columbia mission.
"'Columbia: Final Voyage' is a look at the STS-107 mission," Chien said in an e-mail. "Not at the accident, but the mission and the people."
This report originally appeared as a Cosmic Log item on May 11, 2005.
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