(WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., February 4th, 2003, 10:30 a.m.) -- Purdue University researchers say precious research was lost along with lives when the space shuttle Columbia was destroyed.
The shuttle carried experiments being conducted by scientists who had waited years to test their research in space, said Cary Mitchell, director of the NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training at Purdue.
"Years and years of effort and work of scientists in many fields was lost," he told the Indianapolis Star. "The loss of life and a spacecraft was tragic. The loss of data and potential knowledge to science is immeasurable."
Purdue is a major NASA research center. It receives tens of millions of dollars from the agency to develop everything from a self-contained ecosystem that would allow people to live on Mars to molecular-sized computers to control spacecraft without assistance from Earth.
Officials say no current university research will be directly affected by the shuttle tragedy, and none of its scientists had experiments aboard.
But Mitchell said his team's research -- a $10 million, five-year program to develop a life support system to produce such things as oxygen and food and recycle everything from water to human waste -- could be delayed by the loss of scientific data.