Washington, Feb. 5: Mortal remains of Columbia astronaut Kalpana Chawla and six other crew members, recovered from a huge area stretching from central Texas to central Louisiana are being flown to a military mortuary in Delaware for examination and identification.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials confirmed that “some” remains have been recovered, but Lt. Olivia Nelson, spokeswoman for the Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, said she did not know how many different sets of human remains had been found among the debris.
Sources close to the Chawla family said they were awaiting results of identification and forensic tests of the body parts before deciding on their future course of action. Also, the family was expecting Sanjay Chawla, brother of the dead astronaut to join them from India any time now. The family’s plans will be determined after the brother’s arrival.
The remains of the astronauts are being flown to Delaware in a C-141 cargo plane from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, this afternoon. The Dover air force base, Delaware, also analysed the remains of astronauts killed in the Challenger in 1986.
Bob Cabana, Nasa’s director of flight crew operations, said body parts of all seven astronauts in Saturday’s space tragedy had been recovered. However, forensics experts said details about how the seven astronauts died may never be known even after the fragmentary remains are genetically identified. The identification of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon’s remains appears to be proceeding faster than that of the others because Israel has sent 4 ultra-Orthodox specialists to aid Nasa’s efforts.
Under Jewish custom, families must normally must bury their dead within 24 hours and mourning rituals can only begin after the burial.