Originally created 02/03/03

Remains of seven astronauts to be sent to Dover Air Force Base



DOVER, Del. -- Any remains found of the seven astronauts killed on the space shuttle Columbia will be transported to Dover Air Force Base, the same place the bodies of the Challenger astronauts were taken 17 years ago.

The base's Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs is the only such military facility in the continental United States.

The base's mortuary has "unique capabilities" to identify remains and examine them for potentially harmful objects - such as sharp pieces of metal - that could harm medical workers, said Lt. Olivia Nelson, a base spokeswoman.

"We will prepare the remains and treat them with the honor and dignity they deserve," Nelson said.

Some remains of the Columbia crew already have been recovered.

The base held a ceremony honoring the seven-member Challenger crew when their bodies arrived April 29, 1986 - three months and one day after the disaster. More than 500 people watched that day as the flag-draped coffins were unloaded from a transport plane by a 43-member honor guard.