Laurel Clark

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Laurel Clark
Laurel Clark, NASA photo portrait in blue suit.jpg
Laurel Clark
Laurel Blair Salton

(1961-03-10)March 10, 1961
Ames, Iowa, United States
DiedFebruary 1, 2003(2003-02-01) (aged 41)
Over Texas
Awards SpaceMOH.jpg NASA Distinguished Service Medal.png
Space career
NASA astronaut
Previous occupation
Flight surgeon
Rank Captain, U.S. Navy
Time in space
15d 22h 20m
Selection 1996 NASA Group
Missions STS-107
Mission insignia
STS-107 Flight Insignia.svg

Laurel Blair Clark (née Salton; March 10, 1961 – February 1, 2003) was a NASA astronaut, medical doctor, United States Navy Captain, and Space Shuttle mission specialist. Clark died along with her six fellow crew members in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.


Early and personal life

Clark was born in Ames, Iowa, but considered Racine, Wisconsin to be her home town. Clark was a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

She held a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued Technician Class amateur radio license with the call sign KC5ZSU.

She is survived by her husband, fellow NASA flight surgeon Dr. Jonathan Clark (who was part of an official NASA panel that prepared the final 400-page report about the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster), and son, Iain, who was born in 1996. [1] [2]



Clark was a member of the Aerospace Medical Association and the Society of U.S. Naval Flight Surgeons. She was also a member of the Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church in Racine, Wisconsin. [3]

Military career

During medical school, Clark did active duty training with the Diving Medicine Department at the United States Navy Experimental Diving Unit in March 1987. After completing medical school, she underwent postgraduate medical education in pediatrics from 1987 to 1988 at the National Naval Medical Center. The following year she completed Navy undersea medical officer training at the Naval Undersea Medical Institute in Groton, Connecticut, and diving medical officer training at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. Clark was designated a Radiation Health Officer and Undersea Medical Officer. She was then assigned as the Submarine Squadron 14 Medical Department Head in Holy Loch, Scotland. During that assignment, she dove with Navy divers and Naval Special Warfare Unit Two SEALs, and performed many medical evacuations from US submarines. After two years of operational experience she was designated as a Naval Submarine Medical Officer and Diving Medical Officer. [4]

Clark underwent six months of aeromedical training at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute at NAS Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida, and was designated as a Naval Flight Surgeon. She was stationed at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, and assigned as Flight Surgeon Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211), a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier squadron. She made several deployments, including one overseas to the Western Pacific, practiced medicine in austere environments, and flew on multiple aircraft. Her squadron won the Marine Attack Squadron of the Year award for its successful deployment. She was then assigned as the Group Flight Surgeon for Marine Aircraft Group 13 (MAG-13).

Before her selection as an astronaut candidate she served as a Flight Surgeon for Training Squadron 86 (VT-86), the Naval Flight Officer advanced training squadron for tactical jets at NAS Pensacola. Clark was Board Certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners and held a Wisconsin Medical License. Her military qualifications included Radiation Health Officer, Undersea Medical Officer, Diving Medical Officer, Submarine Medical Officer, and Naval Flight Surgeon. She was a Basic Life Support Instructor, Advanced Cardiac Life Support Provider, Advanced Trauma Life Support Provider, and Hyperbaric Chamber Advisor.

NASA career

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Clark reported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas in August 1996. [5] After completing two years of training and evaluation, she was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. From July 1997 to August 2000 Clark worked in the Astronaut Office Payloads/Habitability Branch. Clark flew aboard STS-107, logging 15 days, 22 hours and 21 minutes in space. [4] [6]

Space flight experience

Laurel Clark during STS-107 LaurelClarkSTS107.jpg
Laurel Clark during STS-107
Laurel Clark looks through an overhead window on the aft flight deck of the Shuttle STS-107 Laurel Clark.jpg
Laurel Clark looks through an overhead window on the aft flight deck of the Shuttle

STS-107 Columbia – The 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. Clark's bioscience experiments included gardening in space, as she discussed only days before her death in an interview with Milwaukee media near her Wisconsin hometown. The STS-107 mission ended abruptly on February 1, 2003, when Columbia disintegrated and her crew perished during re-entry, 16 minutes before scheduled landing.

Clark also recorded inside the cockpit during Columbia's descent into the Earth's atmosphere on a small digital camera. [8]

Clark's final message to her friends and family was through an email sent from Columbia. [9] [10] In the released text of the email, Clark called the planet magnificent, and explained that while she spends much of the time working back in Spacehab and away from the sights of Earth, "whenever I do get to look out, it is glorious." She found that taking photos of the Earth was challenging, "Keeping my fingers crossed that they're in sharp focus." Clark also shared some of the intriguing effects of micro gravity on human physiology, such as constant challenge to stay adequately hydrated due to an "almost non-existent" sense of thirst. [11]

Awards and decorations

Clark was awarded numerous insignia and personal decorations including:

Qualification insignia

Personal decorations

The symbol indicates a posthumous award.


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  2. Lost Astronaut's Husband Not Giving Up On Space - Milwaukee News Story - WISN Milwaukee Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2010-05-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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