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Laurel Blair Salton Clark
Born (1961-03-10)March 10, 1961
Died February 1, 2003(2003-02-01) (aged 41)
Place of birth Ames, Iowa
Place of death Over Texas
Rank Captain, USN
Awards Congressional Space Medal of Honor

Laurel Blair Salton Clark (March 10, 1961 – February 1, 2003) was a medical doctor, United States Navy Captain, NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle mission specialist who was killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Clark was born in Ames, Iowa, but considered Racine, Wisconsin, to be her hometown. 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.[1]

Clark was a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. She held a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued Technician Class amateur radio license with the call sign KC5ZSU.

Education[edit | edit source]

  • 1979: Graduated from William Horlick High School, Racine, Wisconsin
  • 1983: Received bachelor of science degree in zoology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • 1987: Received doctorate in medicine from the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Organizations[edit | edit source]

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.[2]

Awards[edit | edit source]

Captain Clark was awarded numerous insignia and personal decorations including:

Qualification insignia[edit | edit source]

Personal decorations[edit | edit source]

The symbol indicates a posthumous award.

Tributes[edit | edit source]

  • Asteroid 51827 Laurelclark was named for Clark.
  • Clark Hill in the Columbia Hills on Mars was named for Clark.
  • Crater L. Clark on Moon was named for Clark.
  • Clark Hall, in the Columbia Village apartments, at the Florida Institute of Technology is named after her.
  • Dr. Laurel Salton Clark Memorial Fountain, in Racine, WI
  • Laurel B. Clark and David M. Brown Aerospace Medicine Academic Center, located at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute, Naval Air Station, Pensacola
  • Clark auditorium at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland is named for her and displays some of her uniforms

Military career[edit | edit source]

During medical school she did active duty training with the Diving Medicine Department at the United States Navy Experimental Diving Unit in March 1987. After completing medical school, Clark 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.

Clark underwent six months of aeromedical training at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute in Pensacola, Florida, and was designated as a Naval Flight Surgeon. She was stationed at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, and assigned as Flight Surgeon for a Marine Corps AV-8B Night Attack Harrier Squadron (VMA-211). 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 the Marine Aircraft Group 13.

Before her selection as an astronaut candidate she served as a Flight Surgeon for the Naval Flight Officer advanced training squadron (VT-86) in Pensacola, Florida. 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[edit | edit source]

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Clark reported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas in August 1996. 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.[3][4]

Space flight experience[edit | edit source]

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 and her crew perished during re-entry, 16 minutes before scheduled landing.

According to the on-board videotape recovered in the debris, Mission Control asked Clark just before her death to perform some small task. She replied that she was currently occupied but would get to it in a minute. "Don't worry about it," she was told. "You have all the time in the world."[citation needed]

Clark's final message to her friends and family was through an email sent from Columbia.[5][6]

Quote[edit | edit source]

Life continues in lots of places—and life is a magical thing.

—Laurel Clark, in reference to her rose bushes.

References[edit | edit source]

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