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Aerospace Students Say They're Not Deterred by Tragedy

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – A group of aerospace students at the University at Buffalo say Saturday's tragedy involving the space shuttle Columbia will not deter them from pursuing their dreams of space exploration.

The students belong to the UB chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics -- a group with an interest in space flight and exploration. Chapter president Nicholas Leone said he was just sitting down to breakfast Saturday when he found out Columbia was lost. He said the 35-student chapter began trading phone calls and e-mail, expressing their shock and sadness.

Leone said he doesn't expect the tragedy to deter him or any of his fellow students from pursuing careers in the aerospace industry. He said he's like to become an astronaut. Leone said he is also interested in designing space craft, something that might be necessary in coming years should NASA begin plans to replace the shuttle's aging fleet.

Leone and several other UB students have a personal connection to NASA. Last summer, they took part in a program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston where they conducted zero-gravity experiments. Leone said they talked with researchers and astronauts. He thinks NASA will come through this, allowing the space program to continue.

Leone said he became interested in the space program as an eleven year old watching a space shuttle lift-off. He said he has some memory of the Challenger accident -- he was six at the time -- which killed UB Engineering School graduate Gregory Jarvis.

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