CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Remembering Crew of Shuttle Columbia
Aired February 2, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the day after the disaster we mourn and remember the seven heroes from the shuttle Columbia and we keep asking why.
Joining me in this hour Hugh Downs, former "20/20" co-anchor who covered the space program for ABC; from their home in Virginia, Paul and Dorothy Brown, parents of Columbia Mission Specialist David Brown; at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, CBS News Correspondent Bill Harwood; in Washington, NASA Associate Administrator Bill Readdy, a former astronaut, now day-to-day manager for space shuttle flights; in Atlanta, Randy Avera, 14 years a NASA engineer.
He investigated the Challenger crash and was at the Columbia launch. In Washington, John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute, and with some insight on healing in San Antonio, Texas, Max Lucado, minister at the Oak Hills Church of Christ, and in Houston, Reverend David Fannin, senior pastor at Nassau Bay Baptist Church right across from the Johnson Space Center, all next on a special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Hugh Downs is going to serve as a co-host tonight. He'll be firing questions as our guest as well, not that he needs credentials, but Hugh is chairman of the board of governors of the National Space Society, among the members (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Clark and Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise. He's covered launches for NBC and ABC of several Apollo missions and shuttle missions and a former adviser to NASA as well.
With us at the Johnson Space Center in Houston is Bill Harwood of CBS News. He writes, edits, and maintains CBS News Space Place on the web. As a journalist covering NASA for 20 years Bill Readdy is a veteran astronaut. He's in Washington. He's flown on three space flights, an associate NASA administrator for Office of Space Flight.
Bill Readdy we'll start with you. What do we definitely know?
BILL READDY, ASSOC., NASA ADMIN., OFFICE OF SPACE FLIGHT: Well, at this point you realize that it's very close to the event and I'd like first to start out by saying, expressing NASA's deepest sympathies to the Browns, recognizing just this horrible, horrible tragedy. We will find out what happened. We'll get to the bottom of it and we'll fix it and then we'll get back to returning to flight.
But what we know at this point let me tell you where we have been. We've deployed teams in the field. They're on station right now. They're searching for any little clue we positively can identify as part of the wreckage, understanding that it was spread out over quite a distance, and we've had tremendous cooperation across the federal government, state and local agencies, FEMA, the EPA, and now we even have National Guard on scene helping us identify wreckage and collect it.
Private citizens have also pitched in and I'd like to commend them for having identified the pieces of wreckage to the local authorities so that we can make sure that we tag them, locate them, because every little piece of the puzzle will help us unravel what happened yesterday.
KING: Thank you. Bill Harwood how cooperative is NASA being reportorially?
BILL HARWOOD, CBS SPACE CORRESPONDENT: You know it's really been striking. I covered the challenger accident back in 1986 and a policy of strict no comment was implemented in the wake of that disaster. And I have to tell you, Larry, the policy NASA has implemented in the wake of Columbia's loss, tragic as it was, is one of remarkable openness.
They really shared the data that they have to this point with us and through us to the public and I have to say I think it's a very positive step. It reassures the public that NASA is on the right track. It lets them follow along in the investigation a little bit because I think that's part of this.
Larry, you know, the shuttle, the space program is really part of America's image of itself and when there's something bad like this happens to be able to participate in it even from a distance to follow and find out what went wrong with this program is a valuable thing and they've been remarkably open. I've been very impressed.
HUGH DOWNS, CO-HOST: Let me ask what you think and I could ask Bill Readdy also, what do you think, is there any kind of on cause anything that's definitely ruled out like design flaw, pilot error, anything like that that is not the case?
KING: That would be for both of you. We'll start with Bill Readdy and then Bill Harwood -- Bill.
HARWOOD: No, I don't think any -- I'm sorry. Is it to me or to Bill Readdy, Larry? I'm sorry.
KING: Bill Readdy first and then Bill Harwood.
READDY: Well, thank you. First of all I think one of the things that we can rule out is pilot error. You know clearly we won't rule out anything else because we're collecting all the evidence and sifting through it.
But, I can say right now that the crew was ultra professional, highly trained. There was no evidence of anything at all during the downlink that would indicate that there was any kind of crew involvement in this incident but we will not rule out anything otherwise in terms of investigating the evidence that we have. This is a public space program. It's always been public. We owe it to the public to disclose whatever it is that we have. To that end, we're establishing twice a day press briefings, one here at headquarters and one down at the Johnson Space Center each day, and whatever it is that we uncover we'll disclose and share with the media. We want to make sure that we're leaning forward on this, making sure that the public trust that has been invested in us is well placed.
DOWNS: Do you have a rough idea of a time table for getting this -- knowing exactly what took place?
READDY: Well, obviously we're trying to build what we call the fault tree in the business and that is try and figure out all the possible things that might have gone wrong, and then what we do is work backwards and by process of elimination rule out those things that could not have been the causal factor. We'll take however long it takes to get to the bottom of this to identify the problem.
KING: Bill Harwood, from a reporting standpoint how difficult a story is this?
HARWOOD: Well, it's always tough, Larry, when you see a human tragedy of this magnitude and scale that affects something as big as a space program. It's difficult to cover in that as you're aware and what Mr. Readdy is talking about the data comes in slowly. That's of necessity.
I completely agree with him that in the early stage of an investigation like this it's an extraordinarily complex picture. You know people lose sight of the complexity of the space shuttle. Just because it's flown a lot doesn't mean it's something that's simple. There's hundreds and hundreds of data points that come down in real time. They have to go back through that as he said and it just takes time.
You know, reporters obviously are never as patient as other people might want us to be but that's just the nature of this business and I think it's going to take a little while to fully get to the bottom of it and no one wants to come up with a false conclusion that turns out not to be true later.
KING: Bill Readdy, you've flown three missions. Were you worried about reentry?
READDY: Well, there isn't anything we can take for granted in space flight. There's tremendous risk still involved in exploring space and I think that everyone that's professionally involved in this business knows that.
I think the public though perhaps because we have been so successful for so long since Challenger, because we have put in so many safety upgrades in the vehicle, because we have been so successful building the International Space Station, servicing the Hubble and doing all those marvelous things that we do and making them look easy, has probably led the public to the conclusion that this is risk free and it's far from it. This is every bit as risky as doing experimental test flying like I used to do in the United States Navy.
DOWNS: One of the things I've wondered and I haven't heard it commented on recently, if the crew had known in advance that reentry was going to be impossible, would it have been at all possible to make it to the space station even if they weren't trained in docking? I would imagine of that could have been accomplished, or would that have not been an option?
READDY: Well, that's an interesting thought. First of all, we're not even sure what has happened at this point so it's a hypothetical. But the orbits were vastly different. The orbit that this particular flight was in was inclined at 40 degrees to the equator. The space station flies at 51.6 so they're not even coincident in terms of orbit, so it really -- and it also didn't have a docking mechanism on this particular flight so it really...
DOWNS: That's evidently...
READDY: It really was not a possibility. The academic situation and hypothetical too in that we really don't know what's happened at this point.
KING: Bill Readdy thanks for joining us. We'll be calling on you again. Bill Harwood will remain with us and we'll be joined by Randy Avera and John Logsdon. Then we'll meet the Brown parents who lost their son in this tragedy yesterday. We'll be right back.
KING: Welcome back to this special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Hugh Down, the veteran journalist is co-hosting with us for tonight and joining us now from Atlanta is Randy Avera who spent 14 years as a NASA engineer. He helped investigate the Challenger disaster, wrote a book about it called "The Truth About the Challenger."
Bill Harwood of CBS News remains with us at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and John Logsdon joins us. He's a doctor. He's a Ph.D. and a director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. We'll do round robin questioning here and we'll start with -- Randy, why is debris important?
RANDY AVERA, NASA ENGINEER: Well, the debris holds the record of the physical forces and chemistry that occurred to the vehicle during the event that resulted in the catastrophic crash, and it's important to get that debris as early as possible so that mechanical and chemical analysis and other tests can be conducted in order to literally unfold those secrets from those components and combine that with other data to put the entire investigation in order.
KING: Bill Harwood, what's the latest information on the remains of body parts?
HARWOOD: That's proceeding. As you can imagine, Larry, they have said up front they're not going to discuss that out of deference to the family members. Bob Cabana the director, the flight crew operations director chairman down here at the Johnson Space Center said earlier today at a news conference that remains from all seven astronauts have been found. They later retracted that and said he misspoke. So, at this point that process obviously continues, but for the same reasons they're not going to discuss that in any detail at all.
KING: Mr. Logsdon, Dr. Logsdon, what about the space program. Some thing it's lost its visionary allure, it's not the magic it once was. We don't even know when they're flying anymore and now it might be in trouble fiscally. What do you think?
JOHN M. LOGSDON, PH.D., DIR., SPACE POLICY INSTITUTE: Well, I think that this is an opportunity to think through why the United States is engaged in human space flight. I think there should be the kind of discussion we're having tonight and the media, the electronic and print media, the Congress, the White House all should engage in thinking through are the benefits of this worth the risk, worth the cost? I think that process will revalidate the program and say we must move forward and it's in the country's interest to do that.
DOWNS: I'm sure you heard the president make a statement that the space program would continue. To my mind the worst thing we could do in failing to honor the memory of these people would be to cut back on the space program. That certainly would not be what they would want.
KING: Randy, do you share that view?
AVERA: We definitely are a human race on this planet and we are by our very nature explorers. I work with some of the astronomers who are using the Hubble telescope, the Chandra x-ray telescope and are designers for what is the new James Webb space telescope, and let me tell you that you can just go out to a NASA or Hubble space telescope site and see some of the most fascinating science that's ever been shown in the history of the world.
For example, we know where 85 Jupiter type planets are located and we believe that just within the orbits of those planets there will be planets like Mercury and Earth and that's what the James Webb space telescope is looking at.
But in order to do the great science and what I have read in Title 42, the public health and welfare codes where the NASA charter has resided for the past 45 years, it's time to overhaul and revise that charter. We talk about the future of space exploration but we can't even begin to chart that course until we totally address what the charter is, is the charter balanced for what we're planning to do as a nation and with our international partners?
DOWNS: Do you think the United States will maintain its lead in space activities?
AVERA: Well, if I have anything to do with it and the people and the contractors and academia and the NASA programs that I've been fortunate to work in, I can tell you people are highly motivated, very skilled, highly motivated. They don't punch a time clock. They go to work to be a part of history.
KING: Bill Harwood, have you -- do you feel that the public had lost its allure for this program?
HARWOOD: I think the International Space Station, Larry, by its very nature with the esoteric research they do it can never have the kind of public appeal that a program like Apollo, for example, going to the Moon or even going to Mars something like that is going to have to the average person on the street.
It's very hard to understand. It's not the kind of science that lends itself to easy explanation and so it's a little bit tougher sell, that plus the enormous price tag of all of this.
I wanted to go back to what John Logsdon was saying. I think there is widespread support for space travel in this country. Polls consistently show that. I don't know that it's not a legitimate question at a time like this to look at the shuttle in a lot of detail, the cost, the technology involved, upgrades, et cetera, and to reconsider the whole issue of should you replace the vehicle with something that's either safer or less expensive to operate?
You know right now the shuttle is so expensive. It's old technology. Admittedly it's a fantastic flying machine. It's a marvelous statement of that technology but it is 30 years old and it's cost a lot of money to launch it and I think you can not separate the cost of space travel when you talk about what the public wants or doesn't want because that ultimately becomes the political statement and it's enormously expensive.
KING: John, what do you say to that?
LOGSDON: Well, it would be nice if on the shelf there was the technology that we could put a little money against and replace the shuttle but that just isn't the case. We've invested too little in advanced space transportation technology so we're at a position where the shuttle is the best we could do right now.
NASA thought this through, Sean O'Keefe and his team last year, and decided to push further in to the future the next generation shuttle replacement and invest in making the shuttle as safe as possible. I think it, you know, in principle it would be great to have something more modern. In practice, we have to learn what causes accidents, fix the shuttle, and fly it at least for another ten or 15 years.
KING: Randy, a football coach once told me he learned more after a loss than after a win. Do you learn more after something like this?
AVERA: Well, what I call in my book the NASA method, which is what I grew up on after I graduated Georgia Tech, NASA trained me by the evolution from actually before the Mercury days when it was the National Aerospace Council on Aeronautics, the NACA organization. And in 1958 when the NASA organization was chartered by NASA, through the years we've developed what I call the NASA method of design development, testing, and a very, very important part, quality control.
NASA, for example, during the Apollo program has been the leader in this area and the United States has shared that with the rest of the world and the world is coming along and doing marvelous work in the aerospace fields and space exploration. There are people all around the world doing all kinds of science in orbit, and let's not forget the great science that's happening on the earth's surface that supplements the science done in orbit.
KING: Yes. Thank you, Randy Avera, John Logsdon, and Bill Harwood. Thanks for joining us. We'll be calling upon you again as this story unravels.
When we come back we're going to be talking with the parents of Mr. Brown who passed away yesterday, a fantastic individual.
And when we come back after the Browns we'll meet two religious leaders and we'll include your phone calls for them. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the Shuttle Columbia did not return safely to earth, yet we can pray that all are safely home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to more of LARRY KING LIVE with my co-host tonight, the estimable Hugh Downs.
Joining us now from Washington, Virginia, are Paul and Dorothy Brown. They're the parents of the late Columbia Shuttle astronaut David Brown. David was extraordinary in that he was a medical doctor and a pilot and an astronaut. What came first, Paul? Was he first a doctor?
PAUL BROWN, FATHER OF DAVID BROWN: Yes, he was.
DOROTHY BROWN, MOTHER OF DAVID BROWN: He was a pilot.
P. BROWN: Go ahead.
KING: No, I mean do you know what -- give me the order he went from doctor to pilot to astronaut?
P. BROWN: All right. After William and Mary he went to Eastern Virginia Med School. One of his professors had been in the Navy and they talked to him about flying. With that encouragement he went to the Navy and to Pensacola where he learned to fly and land a fighter plane on a carrier deck at night. That was the beginning of it. KING: Dorothy, when did he want to become an astronaut?
D. BROWN: Well, I think it was when he went into the Navy and began flying. He loved to fly and I think that's when he began to dare to dream of being an astronaut.
KING: The fact that he could do...
D. BROWN: Of course he...
KING: Go ahead.
D. BROWN: That he could soar and fly.
DOWNS: The fact that he was able to wear more than one hat so easily, because I'm sure he was dedicated to medicine which he went into.
D. BROWN: Yes, he was.
DOWNS: And he wanted to be an astronaut and become one.
D. BROWN: Well, he planned to practice, family practice in medicine but when the flying bug hit him -- bit him, he just couldn't resist the astronaut.
KING: How did you learn, Paul, of the occurrence?
P. BROWN: We were watching TV at home and heard that they'd lost communication. We then got a call from Ann Nicklos (ph) who's chief engineer in Canaveral for the company that applies the tiles. Ann said they've lost contact.
Dot asked her what does that mean? She said I'm afraid it's serious. She then had to cut off the connection but we knew it was bad and soon thereafter we saw the fragments coming through the sky from a Texas TV station. It was rough.
KING: Oh, my God.
P. BROWN: Yes.
KING: How did you handle it, Dorothy?
D. BROWN: Well, we were just stunned in shock, disbelief was more, and then as the news commentator said it has to be the shuttle because pieces were falling through the sky, and we just -- I can't describe it.
DOWNS: It was just not believable for any of us, I think.
D. BROWN: Yes, just not believable.
DOWNS: Let me ask both of you, what do you think David would want the nation to do now about the space program? D. BROWN: Oh, he would want us to go on. He said the last time I saw Dave in Canaveral just before he was -- the shuttle was to launch, I said to him Dave, I'll be thinking of you every minute and he gave me a great big kiss and I know that he wants this program to continue.
P. BROWN: His brother Doug has asked him, Dave what if you die in space? He said NASA won't go on. It has to go on and that's what Dot and I want to say.
D. BROWN: This program -- we are -- go ahead.
KING: Did you fear, Paul, for him in space? Did you have worries that...
P. BROWN: No.
KING: No, you did not?
P. BROWN: We knew.
D. BROWN: Concerns but.
P. BROWN: Concern but we knew he knew the risks and it's just part of the process.
D. BROWN: That he was aware of the risks.
P. BROWN: You have to take that chance.
D. BROWN: And he wanted to be an astronaut, yes.
DOWNS: He certainly was doing what he wanted to do and I think that's important.
D. BROWN: Right. Right.
P. BROWN: That's right.
KING: Did he send you e-mails back from the shuttle?
D. BROWN: Yes. Yes, he did.
P. BROWN: Yes, we did.
KING: What did...
P. BROWN: They say at the bottom, not for release to the media, but there are some bits in there (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: Oh, go ahead release it. What did he tell you?
D. BROWN: Well, I'd have to read them but he said how -- what a wonderful thing it was to fly over the earth and to see the -- well, I can't remember it all but the continents and the Red Sea and the Great Lakes, and he flew over the East Coast looking very hard down on the coast of Virginia looking for our house and he couldn't find us in the mountain. We're in a mountainous area with many trees and he couldn't find us.
DOWNS: At that height, it might have been difficult.
D. BROWN: Yes, right.
DOWNS: As a mission specialist, he had a reputation as a team player.
D. BROWN: Yes.
DOWNS: Did he talk much to you about his other teammates on that crew?
D. BROWN: Oh, he said in his last e-mail from space that we after two and a half years together we have become a family and we are very close, all of his fellow astronauts, and we sensed that. NASA had a wonderful dinner for the astronauts and their families a couple of nights before the launch and we saw that how close they were and how compatible they were.
KING: Paul, did you and Dorothy go to the launch?
P. BROWN: Yes, we did.
D. BROWN: Yes. Yes, we did.
P. BROWN: I'm in a wheelchair but we got a young friend. We engaged him to drive us down and he did a good job and we got there.
KING: Do you remember the last -- well, let me take a break and come right back. I want to find out what you said to David before he went up.
We're talking with Paul and Dorothy Brown. I'm with Hugh Downs on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE and we'll be back with the Browns from their home in Washington, Virginia right after this.
KING: We're back with Paul and Dorothy Brown. They'll be attending the memorial service, along with the president and many others, on Tuesday in Houston.
Dorothy was telling us during the break that you spoke to, at that dinner, to the Israeli astronaut. And what did he tell you?
D. BROWN: And he said he wanted to tell me how much he had learned from David. Of course, David was a medical doctor. And he said they had become very close friends. And he was just the nicest man you'd ever want to meet.
We met his father, who had come from Israel for the dinner. And Paul talked to his father more than I did.
KING: His father was a Holocaust survivor, Paul.
P. BROWN: Yes. And in one of Dave's e-mail, he said that Ilan had brought a letter from a friend who was a Holocaust survivor, whose seven-year-old daughter did not survive the Holocaust. Dave's remark was...
D. BROWN: I cannot believe such horrible acts could be committed on our planet Earth. And he was -- oh, it went on, I can't remember. But he was shocked.
KING: Paul, how do you cope with the most difficult of things, it is unnatural, parents don't outlive their children. How are you coping with it?
P. BROWN: That's right.
KING: How are you coping?
P. BROWN: By talking to people. By trying to get Dave's message out that the program must go on. By talking to you. You are helping to spread the word. He believed in this and the mission scientifically, I think, was pretty successful. Most of it was downloaded. So it is captured on Earth. So, we have to take satisfaction in that.
DOWNS: A lot of astronauts, who have seen the majestic wheeling of Earth, as they are in orbit, develop a perspective that the rest of us probably don't have. Did you sense that to any of his messages to you, while he was in orbit?
D. BROWN: Well, in his last message he said the Earth is such a beautiful place, that if I had to choose between the Earth and space, I would the Earth.
KING: That's really great.
What special memories do you have of him as a child? He joined the circus, didn't he?
P. BROWN: Yes.
D. BROWN: Oh, yes. He joined everything. Well, when he was little he loved to chase butterflies, anything that flew, fireflies, butterflies, whatever. Dave was always a floating on a star, dreaming up a new adventure. He didn't surprise me.
DOWNS: I have to ask a question, if I can, being a pilot I'd be interested, since David flew A-6s and T-38s, and the F-18 Hornet. Did he have a favorite aircraft at the time that he was flying all these things, or do you know?
P. BROWN: He liked them all. D. BROWN: Well, he owned a little -- Bonanza.
P. BROWN: He owned a little Bonanza.
DOWNS: Oh, a Bonanza.
P. BROWN: Much, much brought up to date, so he would fly up here from Houston in about seven hours and come in about 15 miles away. So, he liked that.
D. BROWN: He also owned a little taildragger, a primitive taildragger.
DOWNS: Oh, did he?
KING: What's a taildragger?
DOWNS: A taildragger is a it doesn't have tricycle landing gear. It just, the old bi-planes were all taildraggers. Was it a bi- plane?
D. BROWN: Yes, and you fly in tandem.
P. BROWN: No, a monoplane.
DOWNS: Oh, monoplane.
D. BROWN: And he had a -- he lived in a suburb of Houston and his address was Airline Drive. And he had a little hangar, I should say he had a little house with a hangar. All the people on this drive had that runway. And they all had hangars and planes.
P. BROWN: Runway behind the houses.
KING: When do you head for Houston, tomorrow?
D. BROWN: Tomorrow, sometime.
P. BROWN: We think it is tomorrow.
D. BROWN: NASA is arranging our transportation.
KING: It's going to be tough for you. The president and Laura Bush will be there.
D. BROWN: Yes. Yes.
KING: And all the other relatives. I guess, there will be some help in being together.
P. BROWN: Yes.
(CROSSTALK) D. BROWN: Well, our hearts goes out to the other families. Our son, David, had not married, so he's not leaving dependent children or young wives.
KING: Paul, you wanted to add something?
P. BROWN: Yes, I really do. I just hung up the phone from talking to Ann Nicklos (ph), at Canaveral. She's an engineer for a private company in charge of putting the tiles on the plane. Ann said that David would talk to her a lot. And she brought up here twice, said Ann, if ever there is a disaster in space, it will be because somebody committed an error.
When it's all over and they determine whose error it was. I want you to hunt them up, find them, and tell them I absolutely harbor no ill feeling because mistakes are going to happen. That's the kind of a guy he was.
DOWNS: That's profound.
KING: Boy, oh, boy, you had some son.
D. BROWN: We certainly did.
P. BROWN: We think so.
KING: Thank you both very much. We'll see you again on Tuesday.
P. BROWN: Bye. Good night.
KING: Paul and Dorothy Brown, the parents of Columbia shuttle astronaut, the late David Brown, from their home in Washington, Virginia.
Hugh and I will be back with more guests right after this.
KING: Hugh Downs remains with me. Joining us in San Antonio is Max Lucado, best-selling Christian author of "A Love Worth Giving" and "Traveling Light"; senior minister of the Oak Hills Church of Christ, in San Antonio; and in Houston, Reverend David Fannin, senior pastor of the Nassau Bay Baptist Church, the congregation includes many in the NASA community.
Before I ask questions of our, hopefully, those who can give us some spiritual help here. What we didn't ask Hugh, he's been our co- host here, I didn't ask him anything. What's your overview of this whole situation?
DOWNS: Well, I've been pleased to see something of a consensus that the space program ought to continue. It would be, probably the worst thing we could do would be to dishonor the memory of these people that lost their lives by cutting back on it, or talking about cutting it out. And I know that's the way they feel about it.
And I could wish that we, in America, maybe humanity generally, had a better attitude toward what space has done for us already and what it will do.
And example of that is that if somebody says -- I hear somebody say something like, I talked to so-and-so in Geneva, and he sounded like he was right in the next room. Isn't the telephone wonderful? What they ought to say is, isn't the satellite wonderful? That's what makes that possible.
Plus an awful lot of medical advances and our whole cyber world.
KING: You're saying it is worth the expense.
DOWNS: It is more than worth the expense.
KING: Max Lucado, how do you explain this to someone? How do you keep faith when something like this happens to seven, obviously wonderful -- why do the good die young? Why do bad things happen to good people? How do you explain that?
MAX LUCADO, MINISTER, OAK HILLS CHURCH OF CHRIST: Well, those questions will go on, especially for these close family members, very close to these astronauts for quite some time. I think first of all, we have to give ourselves permission to ask these tough questions. From what I understand, God never resists the honest and genuine seeker.
I think we have to give ourselves time. Grief is like a roller coaster. Sometimes we feel like we've made progress; sometimes we feel like we're actually going downhill, then we look up and there is a tunnel we're going through.
My heart really goes out to these family members. I might encourage them to look for reasons, first of all, to be grateful. Gratitude is a great healer. And there are many reasons to be heavy hearted. But there are also many reasons to stand in awe at the phenomenal lives, seven lives, who probably lived more in their 40 plus years. I think the average age is about 45 or 46, lived more in their years than many of us do in 70 or 80. There is a lot to be thankful for here.
LUCADO: And I think a second thing that I would encourage people in these kind of crisis to do, is to trust the kindness of God. He's too wise to make mistakes. And he's too kind to be cruel, when we can't trace his hand we trust his heart and know that God is watching out.
KING: Reverend Fannin, were any of these seven in your congregation?
REV. DAVID FANNIN, PASTOR, NASSAU BAY BAPTIST CHURCH: No they were not. KING: But many astronauts are, right?
FANNIN: That's correct. We have a number of folks, a large majority of our congregation that does work in and around NASA. Some actually working with NASA, some working with contractors and sub- contractors. Many of our folks knew these astronauts personally and knew them very well. And they have a deep sense of loss and of mourning.
KING: Before Hugh asks you a question, did you do a service today?
FANNIN: Yes, we did.
KING: Were astronauts present?
FANNIN: No, the one astronaut who is really active in our church, Dave Leitsma (ph), has just been in the hospital recently with some heart problems. And he was not there this morning, but a large number of the other folks who work at NASA were in our service today.
DOWNS: How do you account for the fact that a number of astronauts have been religious? And I would imagine a higher percentage than other scientists. Can you account for that?
FANNIN: Well, I think, part of the reality is that when you begin to deal with real science, looking at God's creation, it is pretty hard to look at that and not come to a greater sense of your Creator and the fact that, indeed, it is a life of faith. Trusting in the God who made all of this, that he knew exactly what he was doing.
You know, when they fly in space, they're trusting in the laws that he established when he laid down the foundations of the world.
KING: Max, what do you say to the children of astronauts? How do you explain death to an eight-year-old?
LUCADO: I think that what we have to help, especially children, see is that in God's eyes death is not a tragedy. You know, in Scripture, death is referred to as sleep. And helping children understand that this is God's time to call one of his children upstairs to rest. I think it's a very fair analogy. And then the promise that you'll him, or see her, can bring hope and encouragement to children.
KING: Do you share that view, Rev. Fannin? What would you say to a child?
FANNIN: Absolutely. One of the things I tried to challenge our church today, is to understand that God never makes mistakes. That he is a loving caring father, whose grace is always sufficient to meet us in our times of need. That we might not always get the answers to the questions that we would ask, but they can always continue to trust in God to meet them in the point of their deepest need.
One of the things I tried to share with my church today, that great faith, really, is forged in the furnace of tragic situations. And that there are those times in life when, by faith, God allows us to escape. But there are also those times, that by faith, we have to endure. And it is only that faith that enables us to do that in a very real way.
KING: You don't ever doubt it, Max Lucado? You never doubt, occurrence like this doesn't cause you to doubt your faith?
LUCADO: You know, crises is the consequence of unmet expectations. We expect astronauts to come home -- and when they don't, we're disappointed. It is our expectations that are unmet. Though, crises force us to recalibrate who is in charge of the world and acknowledge that God is in charge.
In an hour like this, for example, at a memorial service or at a funeral, I'll often turn the 57th Chapter of Isaiah, where the prophet says that good people are taken away and that people don't always understand, but that the righteous is taken away from evil.
God, in his sovereignty, could have been taking his servants, at the right time, to save them from a future disaster. Again, we go back and trust the kindness of God here.
LUCADO: I think that's what is essential.
KING: Let me get a break and come back with our remaining moments with Max Lucado and Reverend David Fannin, and Hugh Downs, on this special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Max Lucado and Reverend David Fannin and Hugh Downs. By the way, we've received a ton of calls for the Browns. We didn't take calls for the Browns tonight. Expressing their condolences, but I know they'd like to know how many people share their grief.
And Hugh Downs has a comment and a question for Max and David.
DOWNS: Yes, Max, we brought up the subject of grief, because no matter how deep your faith, you do grieve when you lose somebody. And I sense something at this tragedy, I did not know, personally, any of these astronauts, but I felt a personal sense of grief at this tragedy that happened yesterday.
I'm wondering if I'm unique or a higher percentage of Americans, who didn't know them personally, had the same feeling? What would be your take on that?
LUCADO: I think that's a great point. I was driving -- to get here on time, I had to really race across Texas. I was four hours north of San Antonio. And everywhere I drove, Hugh, there were flags flying half-staff. This is something that I think has touched Americans all over.
And I was wondering why. Perhaps it is because we're hearing rumbling of war. Perhaps it is so close on the edge of the 9/11 disaster. But I think part of it is that we have our dreams, we have aspirations, and astronauts embody those dreams. And when something like this happens we fear that maybe the best in us is in jeopardy. But I think, to again, what Mr. and Mrs. Brown said, they would encourage us to press on and to use this as a stepping-stone of resolve to press forward and not lose hope.
KING: Let's take a call. Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
CALLER: Hello, I'd like to ask a question. The question is for Reverend Fannin.
CALLER: I'm from Canada. And will there be a public memorial that will be televised so that all of us can grieve together>?
KING: Reverend Fannin, what do you know is going to happen on Tuesday?
FANNIN: Well, the plans are still in flux, as I understand it, but there is going to be a memorial service on Tuesday. I'm not sure that I can give you all the details on that at this particular time.
KING: I think there will be a major memorial service. The president and first lady will be attending. All the families of the astronauts, who died, will be there. And it will be covered by CNN, of course, and other networks I'm sure, but I know we'll be covering it. And we're going to do a follow up show, to that memorial, on Tuesday night.
Do you think they're someplace, now, Reverend Fannin, do you think these seven people are somewhere?
FANNIN: Absolutely. The Bible talks about the fact that this life is not all there is. That there is a life for those who have a relationship with God, a place called Heaven. I only knew of the spiritual condition of two of the astronauts, from members of my church, who are very active in one of our local Christian churches here. But I cannot speak with any certainty, or with sincerity about the others, because I just didn't know and didn't know anybody who knew them.
A few moments ago, you asked a question about faith and doubt. And over the years I've really discovered that if you have not reason to doubt, you really have no reason to have faith. That it is really not faith that we seek to have in the place of our doubts, but rather it is faith in the face of our doubts that enables us to carry on and dealt with it and lead the kind of life God intends for us to live. DOWN: That's a little like the analogy of fear and courage. Because true courage is not fearless. That's idiotic to be fearless. But real courage is to be afraid and go ahead and do what you most fear.
KING: Well, said.
CALLER: Hi, how are you?
CALLER: Well, I'm so hurt by the disaster that happened and we never question God, why for 16 minutes that these people couldn't live longer, what happened in 16 days.
KING: Why didn't he prevent it, Max?
LUCADO: Well, again, I don't know if we're privy to God's understanding. Scripture teaches us that as far as the heavens are above the Earth, God's understanding is above ours. We do know this, we do know that their lives were phenomenally valuable to society. And that they made contributions far beyond what many people who have lived much longer than they.
We do know that God, in his timing, even before we're born, knows how many days we're going to live. Again, crisis is the consequences of unmet expectations. But from his perspective, I believe that the plan is continuing as it should. We can benefit from this. We can be reminded of the frailty of our own lives. We can give thanks to God for the time that we do have.
KING: Thank you both very much. We have only a minute left. One more caller, Greenville, South Carolina.
CALLER: Yes, my question is for Mr. Downs.
CALLER: How long do you think the space shuttle program, not the space program, but the space shuttle program is going to continue?
KING: 30 seconds.
DOWNS: An opinion is easy to give. I agree with the NASA engineer who was on earlier, who said probably another 10, 15 years, maybe with some modifications. But eventually, I think there will be tourism in space. There will be cheaper means of getting out of the gravity well of the Earth's surface. And it will move on, just as aviation has, I believe.
KING: Thank you, Hugh Downs. Thanks for sharing the podium tonight. DOWNS: Thank you, as well.
KING: Thank you Max Lucado in San Antonio and Reverend David Fannin in Houston for joining us on this tough evening.
FANNIN: Thank you.
LUCADO: Thank you.
KING: We'll take a break and come back and tell you about tomorrow night and what's planned head and intro the show that's coming after this one.
KING: Elizabeth Taylor guests tomorrow night. As I said, Laura Bush was due to be the guest Tuesday night, instead, she will be with her husband in Houston at the memorial service. And so on Tuesday night we'll do a follow up to that service. To follow up the show we did tonight, which was a special edition of LARRY KIND WEEKEND, with Hugh Downs, as co-host.
There is also a special edition of "NEWSNIGHT," ahead on this Sunday night. It is anchored by Aaron Brown. He is in Houston.
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