None of the families of the seven astronauts who died in the Challenger disaster 32 months ago planned to attend Discovery's launch Thursday, and some may not even watch it on television, a spokeswoman says.
"I would hate to see anything happen to it (Discovery)," Bruce Jarvis, father of Challenger astronaut Gregory Jarvis, said in a recent interview.June Scobee, whose husband, Dick, commanded the ill-fated spacecraft, said she, too, would not go to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the launch.
Some of the families have not even decided whether they will watch on TV, said Lisa Turner, a spokeswoman for the Challenger Center, which was set up in memory of the crew.
Scobee said that "like any other American citizen," she is eager for a successful Discovery mission to get NASA's manned spaceflight program back on track.
"NASA needs to focus on the launch facility, on the crew and their families," she said in a telephone interview. "For me to be there would just remind everyone of that tragedy. And it would be difficult for me, too."
Scobee has not been back to Cape Canaveral since Jan. 28, 1986, when the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch.
She said the Challenger tragedy changed the way the Natonal Aeronautics and Space Administration goes about its business.
"I really think they're launching a new era. There's a new awareness of how vulnerable we are," she said.
Since the accident, the Challenger families have avoided discussions about their personal grief, and have focused their efforts on establishing a memorial to their lost loved ones, she said.
Those efforts were rewarded last month with the opening of the first Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Houston, a place where children can learn about space.
The center, at Houston's Museum of Natural Sciences, gives students an opportunity to make a simulated spaceflight complete with a mission control center and scientific experiments.
It was paid for with a $150,000 grant and will serve as a prototype for other small facilities associated with schools and museums. Mrs. Scobee and the other Challenger relatives conceived the center as a memorial to the crew and their educational mission.
Besides Dick Scobee and Jarvis, the Challenger astronauts were pilot Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair and Christa McAuliffe, a Concord, N.H., high school teacher who was to have conducted the first classroom experiments from space.
The Challenger crew's families have made many appearances to help raise money for the center and for other memorial events honoring the astronauts.