Our condolences to space station astronaut Dan Tani, whose mother was killed on Wednesday in a car/train accident. Tani has been on board the ISS since October, and in all likelihood would have returned back to earth on Wednesday if space shuttle Atlantis had been able to launch as originally scheduled on Dec. 6. However, the shuttle has been grounded because of malfunctioning engine cutoff sensors in the external fuel tank. As it stands now, the earliest Tani could return home would be late January.
The Chicago Tribune reported that 90-year old Rose Tani was stopped at a railroad track behind a school bus carrying students from her sonâ€™s alma mater in Lombard, Illinois. The gates at the track were lowered, but Mrs. Tani honked her car’s horn and then drove around the bus and past the crossing gates when a freight train struck her car.
NASA officials called Tani over a secured connection to tell him the news, and then offered any help he might need. “He would get whatever personal, psychological and spiritual counseling he would need,” NASA spokesman Jim Rostohar told the Tribune. “He can talk it out through a private phone line.”
While the ISS is equipped with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to be used in an emergency as a rescue vehicle for the crew, the death of a family member does not fall under the conditions that the escape vehicle would be used. “Before anyone launches, they understand that unfortunate things could happen and that’s unfortunately part of the difficulties, hardships and risks of space flight,” said Rostohar.
Tani is the youngest of four children and his father passed away when Tani was young. A minister at a church in Lombard told the Tribune that Tani and his mother were “incredibly close.” During a spacewalk in November, Tani sent a greeting to his mother. “I know my mom’s watching on the Internet in Chicago, so hi Mom!” he said. “It’s always fun to have your folks watching you at work.”
Original News Source: Chicago Tribune