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Failed shuttle mission has special meaning for MSU-Bozeman
By Annette Trinity-Stevens, MSU News

Saturday, February 1, 2003

MSU microbiologist Barry Pyle holds an experimental apparatus used for shuttle experiments in this MSU file photo.

Columbia's failed landing on Saturday holds special significance for a group of Montana State University-Bozeman scientists and students whose experiment was one of about 80 aboard the 16-day scientific mission. 

The group, headed by MSU microbiologist Barry Pyle, was in Florida Saturday awaiting Columbia's landing in order to begin post-flight analyses of its onboard experiments. 

Reached Saturday near Kennedy Space Center, Pyle said NASA headquarters has asked him and others directly connected to the mission to not comment pending an investigation of the break up. 

He did say, however, the group felt a lot of sadness for the crew and their families. 

With Pyle in Florida were MSU microbiologists Elinor Pulcini, Susan Broadaway and Kelli Buckingham-Meyer. Undergraduate students Stephanie Barton of Whitefish, Kristina Hale of Bozeman, Laura Eaton of Sheridan, Wyo., and Ailyn Perez-Osorio of Billings also are in Florida. 

Former students Chad Deisenroth of Kalispell and Lori Richardson of Miles City traveled to Florida earlier in the mission but had returned before Saturday's tragedy. The shuttle was launched on Jan. 16. 

Originally scheduled to fly more than two years ago, the MSU experiment would have tested whether a common bacterium becomes more toxic in space. Pseudomonas bacteria have been found in shuttle water supplies, and NASA is concerned about astronauts getting sick, Pyle said in an earlier interview. 

Copyright Annette-Trinity Stevens and MSU News, reproduced by permission.

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