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Space Shuttle Columbia

Astronauts' families: Space exploration 'must go on'

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The families of the seven astronauts lost aboard the space shuttle Columbia urged NASA and the nation Monday not to give up on manned space flight in the wake of the weekend's disaster.

In a statement read by Bill Readdy, the head of NASA's manned space programs, the families thanked the space agency for its support and the public for their condolences:

"On January 16 we saw our loved onces launch in to a brilliant, cloud-free sky.

"Their hearts were full of enthusiasm, pride in country, faith in their god, and a willingness to accept the risk in pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge that might improve the quality of life for all mankind.

"Columbia's 16-day mission of scientific discovery, which was a great success, was cut short by mere minutes. Yet it will live on forever in our memories.

"We want to thank the NASA family and people from around the world for their incredible outpouring of love and support.

"And although we grieve deeply, as do the families of Apollo 1 and Challenger before us, the bold exploration of space must go on.

"And once the root cause of this tragedy is found and corrected, the legacy of Columbia must carry on for the benefit of our children and yours."

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