Memorial Service for Columbia Astronauts On KLTV - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Memorial Service for Columbia Astronauts On KLTV

President Bush will travel to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday to attend a memorial service for the seven astronauts lost in the space shuttle Columbia disaster, a senior administration official said on Sunday.

"The president and the first lady will go to Houston on Tuesday for a memorial," said the official. He gave no other details.

Earlier in the day, Bush bowed his head in church as a minister prayed for the spirit of the five men and two women lost aboard Columbia "to be kept alive in all of us."

"We grieve because they represent the best in us, a part of which has died," the Rev. Luis Leon said at St. John's Church near the White House. "God's heart is more heartbroken than our own, and I believe they're already resting."

Leon said he had abandoned his original sermon in view of Saturday's tragedy in which Columbia, returning to Earth after a 16-day scientific mission, broke apart 40 miles above Texas and 16 minutes from its destination in Florida.

"This is more than we can stomach," he said. That's how it feels, doesn't it?"

The minister said he had heard that some believed the shuttle's disintegration was "God's way of getting back at us" for Bush's Iraq policies.

"I don't believe in that kind of God," he said. "That's hokum. That's just garbage."

The Columbia's destiny, Leon told the small congregation, was "the price for our freedom."

"Let us pray for their spirit to be kept alive in us."

Bush delivered news of the shuttle's loss to a grief-stricken nation on Saturday with a quote from the prophet Isaiah.

"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

Bush then said "the same creator who names the stars" also knew the names of the seven astronauts who died, adding: "The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth, yet we can pray that all are safely home."

When Leon asked the congregation to greet each other, Bush turned and gently kissed his wife Laura on the cheek. He then shook hands with other churchgoers seated around him and later took his place in line for communion.

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