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Space Shuttle Columbia

From readers: Thoughts, prayers, condolences

Mourners gather at a memorial service for the seven Columbia astronauts Tuesday at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Mourners gather at a memorial service for the seven Columbia astronauts Tuesday at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

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(CNN) -- With people across the world mourning the loss of the seven astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia, we asked readers to send us their thoughts on the sacrifice made by the men and women on this tragic mission as well as their thoughts on the future of NASA's manned space program. has received more than 7,200 e-mails since Saturday's tragedy, and is forwarding to NASA any wishes passed along by readers for the astronauts' colleagues, friends and family. Here are some of the submissions:

"I am an educator at Knox County High School in northeast Missouri. I just finished reading brief [biographies] of Columbia's lost crew to my class. My students were struck with their amount of education, besides their obvious talent and bravery. You can't replace heroes like these. God willing, they will inspire youngsters like those sitting in front of me to carry on."-- Jim Cox in Edina, Missouri

"This tragedy only crystallizes the great risk and danger these brave explorers experience in the name of the people of the United States. We as a nation have become complacent as to the risks our explorers take. We forget because NASA has done such a great job of bringing these people home safely, time and time again. Only when a great tragedy befalls our space program do we really realize the tremendous effort NASA and all the people involved must put forth. My family's thoughts and prayers are with the seven who perished and with their families and friends who must endure this sadness and the hardships which will follow."-- Fred Llana in Gainesville, Florida

"It's a terrible loss. Seven courageous people died Saturday morning. But it would be an even greater loss to stop or curtail manned space flight because of Columbia's loss. The cost in money spent so far is great. But the insult to the memory of those who have died in the quest to explore space would be the greatest loss. If we could ask those who have died, what would they say? [T]hey paid the greatest price of all."-- Donald Getz in Bartonsville, Pennsylvania

"My condolences to the families of the flight crew. As the families acknowledged several times since Saturday morning, everyone knows of the potential danger involved and accepts it. My family and I support the space program. It can't end here. A lot of people have something to shoot for in future space exploration, whether it's working a mission on the ground or taking the ride up. Identify the problem, fix it and get on with the program. Look at commercial and private aviation. There's been a lot more people lost to accidents [there], and yet we don't hesitate to go right back to flying. For NASA team members, just continue to do the best you can. I don't think there are many of us out here [who] are pointing fingers to blame anyone. We take risks and have unfortunate things happen every day."-- Montie Arkel in Lawton, Oklahoma

"Our hearts are with the families of the seven astronauts killed when the shuttle Columbia exploded on Saturday. Also, we hope that in the near future when there is a situation where debris hits the orbiter on liftoff, the crew could dock at the space station until repairs could be made or another shuttle would come to pick them up. We pray the men and women at NASA will find the problem and make sure it never happens again. We hope there will be a special way to remember these brave men and women. We will never forget them."-- T. Dauria in St. Louis, Missouri

"I am thankful for the brave and intelligent men and women who go into space. They accept for all of humanity the risk of life for our betterment. Except for being able to 'escape the surly bonds of earth,' they are no different than past explorers who sought to do what was called impossible or dangerous. Without such persons, we would still be living in caves. We need such intelligent, brave and unselfish people to continue to stretch the boundaries of humankind's frontiers. Therefore, the space program should continue. Otherwise, the work of so many individuals for the past 30-plus years and the deaths of the astronauts will have been in vain. My sincerest appreciation and condolences to the families of the Columbia crew."-- Stacey A. Bradford in Arlington, Virginia

"While I don't dispute that space exploration has resulted in some advances in science and technology, the resources invested should be used at home. Let's fix the problems on Earth first before we invest billions of dollars into solving problems in space. Imagine if that money were to be channeled into finding cures for cancer or AIDS, or finding solutions for world hunger. Let's fix Earth first before we conquer space."-- Kathleen Thurston-Lighty in Boston, Massachusetts

"As a 16-year-old, I watched the Challenger explode in 1986. I felt sadness for all of those aboard the Challenger and their families. As I got older, I found out the numerous problems that the Challenger experienced even before takeoff -- the ice [and] the doubt that people had who were involved with the launch. After this recent tragedy, I am more adamant about ditching the space program. The government can find better ways to spend tax dollars. I cannot imagine what doing scientific experiments in zero gravity is going to do for millions of American taxpayers. Satellites are essential, [but] the manned space program needs to go; we're not competing with the Russians anymore."-- Damon Herbert in Mentor, Ohio

"Taking in consideration of how much tragedy mankind had to endure in the past in order to achieve a better living for all of us on Earth, we should see this one as a possibility that can always happen in our quest to better the life of mankind on Earth. We can only learn more about our surroundings if we explore them. This was the mission of the astronauts, and they gave their lives for it .They deserve a big salute from the whole world."-- Robert von Dewitz in Swakopmund, Namibia

"As painful and as tragic as the Columbia explosion was, it bothers me terribly to hear people debating whether or not we should be sending manned missions into space. It would be such a dismissal of everything that the seven Columbia astronauts held sacred. As far as safety records go, if they want to snuff out the shuttle program, then technically, after an airline crash, shouldn't air travel be grounded? Sounds pretty ridiculous."-- Lisa Wormington in North Charleston, South Carolina

"The Columbia astronauts were extraordinary people who, unfortunately, received the recognition they deserve only when tragedy occurred. They were remarkable people who took on known risks to perform work in space to better the lives of all on Earth. People who were unaware of the Columbia flight before Saturday and have no knowledge of the NASA program have no credit to critique NASA at all. Everyone seems to have an opinion on a tragedy. NASA has benefited society in technology, science, medicine and other areas. However, people seem to forget such accomplishments and instead focus on the faults."-- Justin in San Francisco, California

"The loss of Columbia and its crew shows what happens when the bean counters are in charge, as they are at NASA. NASA must return to the 1960s when real engineers were in charge of things, then a lot of money wasted by [the] Pentagon should be given to NASA. Why take the trouble of fighting over a piece of Earth when there is a solar system and a galaxy to be had? NASA should be left to do the job it was created for: 'To explore strange new worlds, to go where no one has gone before.'"-- J. Van Den Berg in Haastrecht, Netherlands

"So sad to see such a tragic loss of talented young lives. So sad to see so such investment into space -- when there is so much undiscovered on our own planet that will help our future generations. So sad to see so many billions go up in smoke when people could live a higher quality of life if that money was invested in them today."-- Charlotte Simpson in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

"I would like to send out my regrets to the family and friends of the seven Columbia astronauts. It is a tragic event for all of us and I mourn with you all. ... After Challenger, I had hoped never to witness something like that again, but unfortunately, my nightmare came true. The sacrifice these fine astronauts made will not be forgotten; they were trying to better the human race, and that will not go unnoticed. I think NASA should still have a manned space program as long as there are willing individuals who want to go. People still went up into space after Challenger and will continue to go up after Columbia because we owe it to those who sacrificed their lives to continue their dreams."-- Stephanie in Scranton, Pennsylvania

"I don't think we need to send people into space to experiment with mice and ants. I think robotics can do everything the astronauts are doing. There would be no risk of human life and it would be cheaper. We shouldn't spend billions of dollars just so men can be adventurous."-- Bill in Isola, Mississippi

"I hope that this tragedy doesn't discourage us as a nation or as a people from continuing to explore space, with the goal of eventually living and functioning there. Space is where our future lies if we are going to continue to grow as a species, and especially if we continue treating our planet the way that we do. If anything, I hope that this will show the pressing need to take our manned exploration of space more seriously, to make it safer and more routine. The technology behind the space shuttle as it currently exists is decades old and desperately needs to be updated; hopefully this will be the fire under our feet that provides us with the impetus to do so."-- Michael Nash in Dallas, Texas

"The breakup of the shuttle Columbia is a terrible tragedy that must not be taken lightly, or given just a passing thought. However, the history of mankind is filled with tragedies in exploring and settling new worlds."-- Marc W. McCord in Spring Branch, Texas

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