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Clark e-mailed from space

Laurel Clark of Racine, Wis., was a submarine doctor with the U.S. Navy before joining NASA in 1996, traveling to the depths of the oceans before soaring above as a mission specialist helping with science experiments on the space shuttle Columbia. The mother of an 8-year-old son, she was on her first shuttle mission when Columbia disintegrated over Texas. The day before she died, she sent an e-mail home to family and friends:

Hello from above our magnificent planet Earth. The perspective is truly awe-inspiring. This is a terrific mission and we are very busy doing science round the clock. Just getting a moment to type e-mail is precious so this will be short, and distributed to many who I know and love.

I have seen some incredible sights: lightning spreading over the Pacific, the Aurora Australis lighting up the entire visible horizon with the cityglow of Australia below, the crescent moon setting over the limb of the Earth, the vast plains of Africa and the dunes on Cape Horn, rivers breaking through tall mountain passes, the scars of humanity, the continuous line of life extending from North America, through Central America and into South America, a crescent moon setting over

the limb of our blue planet. Mount Fuji looks life a small bump from up here, but it does stand out as a very distinct landmark.

Magically, the very first day we flew over Lake Michigan and I saw Wind Point (Wis.) clearly. Havent been so lucky since. Every orbit we go over a slightly different part of the Earth. Of course, much of the time Im working back in Spacehab and dont see any of it. Whenever I do get to look out, it is glorious. Even the stars have a special brightness.

I have seen my friend Orion several times. Taking photos of the earth is a real challenge, but a steep learning curve. I think I have finally gotten some beautiful shots the last 2 days. Keeping my fingers crossed that theyre in sharp focus.

My near vision has gotten a little worse up here so you may have seen pics/video of me wearing glasses. I feel blessed to be here representing our country and carrying out the research of scientists around the world. All of the experi-ments have accomplished most of their goals despite the inevitable hiccups that occur when such a complicated undertaking is undertaken. Some experiments have even done extra science. A few are finished and one is just getting started today.

The food is great and I am feeling very comfortable in this new, totally different environment. It still takes a while to eat as gravity doesnt help pull food down your esophagus. It is also a constant challenge to stay adequately hydrated. Since our body fluids are shifted toward our heads our sense of thirst is almost non-existent.

Thanks to many of you who have supported me and my adventures through-out the years. This was definitely one to beat all. I hope you could feel the positive energy that beamed to the whole planet as we glided over our shared planet. Love to all, Laurel. USA-Today.



Mums white but she helps me fight racism


Molly Mahamdallie, 32, who is white, used to go out with a black man in her home town of St Helens, near Liverpool. When their daughter, Stevie Ashton, was born in 1989, the couple were subjected to racist insults. A few years later, when they split up, and Molly got married to an Asian man, the prejudice became unbearable. Eventually, Molly felt that they had no choice but to move away from the area. Molly, who is a primary school teacher, now lives with 10-year-old Stevie in Islington in north London.

Molly. From the moment Stevie was born, there was racist abuse. I remember trying to work out whether it was because we lived in a small town up North where almost everyone is white, or because people took particular offence to mixed-race families. Maybe it was both.

It was the refusal of entry into restaurants that was most common when Stevie, her dad, and me were together. And when he wasnt around, it was the kids and teenagers who were the perpetrators. Theyd only have to see me with the pushchair 

 to stop what they were doing and shout: What are you doing with a Gollywog?

Then they started putting rubbish through our letterbox. One day, I even found a little toy Gollywog, that had been purposely torn and split, on the doormat. I was so horrified and angry that I insisted the housing association help us move.

I never resented Stevies colour though, it just made me realise earlier than most parents how vulnerable your child can be, and I think she probably picked up on that.

Things seemed to quieten down for the next few years. I was relieved because Id split up with Stevies dad and had married an Asian man and I knew a three-race family could really get the local racists going. I was proved right. Id come back from dropping Stevie at school and the house was completely ransacked.

The bedroom walls had been covered in graffiti. It said everything from Paid Go Home to Wog. Theyd slashed the mattresses with a Stanley knife while they were at it. For the first time, my anger about racism turned to fear. This cant be that common among white people in this country. Maybe thats why it totally overwhelmed me.

The Anti-Nazi League were brilliant. I called them and they went round all the local streets making the necessary enquiries and warnings that the police did not.

In fact, the police didnt even take photos of inside the house. Nor did they offer me the services of Victim Support until Id approached a local newspaper about the incident.

I felt that even if youre connected with non-whites, you have a good chance of being treated unjustly.

I didnt tell Stevie about any of this. I wanted to protect her. I probably over-protected her, if Im honest. I can still remember painting over and over the bedroom walls so the graffiti was gone by the time she came home. I was particularly worried because shed just started asking questions about why shes a different colour to me, and why there was no-one else her colour at school. I didnt want her to perceive her colour as a bad thing.

Thats why we moved to London almost immediately. I can still remember my joy at seeing so many races all living together. Stevies confidence changed beyond recognition, and I was able to let her have more of a childhood. I really believed the racism was behind us.

Soon afterwards, I realised it wasnt. And this time, it somehow felt worse than ever before because it was Stevie who was on the receiving end. A boy began calling her racist names at school and got the other kids to join in.

I couldnt believe the teachers did so little about it. Ive learned what this kind of taunting can lead to, and so I felt as horrified and powerless as I had done when I lived in St Helens. It brought us closer together as well though, because we talked about it such a lot.

Ive always taught Stevie to fight racism. In some ways I think white mums tend to be better at this because they havent had a lifetime of racism,and so they confront it more.

I need to try and let her do it more for herself. But I worry terribly about her future.


Stevie. Mum says some racist stuff happened to our family before we moved here. But I dont remember it. It must have been bad for us to have to move so far away, so Im glad I dont. All I remember is feeling different because Id realised that I wasnt the same colour as everyone else in the town, not even my mum.

Thats why I was really happy when we came to London. It isnt as peaceful, but there are people from all over the world here. Mum and me never stand out when were walking down the street together. It made me feel like I wasnt so different from her after all. I could see other people in mixed race families and they seemed to be close.

It also felt good that mum let me do more things on my own.

Mind you, there is some racism in school. One day last year, it was really bad, and that seemed to make mum worry, just like she had before we moved.

Me and my best friend, Jade, were playing in the playground when this boy told one of the nursery kids to call Jade a horrible name. I cant remember exactly what it was, and dont really want to, but it was a nasty word about white people who mix with black people. Then the bigger boy called me an even nastier racist word. I was really crying, and so we went to tell the teacher.

The next day, I got an apology letter from the boy. But you could tell it was only because the teacher had told him to write it. It didnt even really say sorry and hes still racist. So I still feel angry. Some children say to me: Well, what do you expect? I dont know, but I think I deserve more than that. Other kinds of bullying are treated seriously.

In any case, Mum says anger is a good way to feel because its like saying: You cant do that to me, and it makes you try and do something about it. If youre just sad and not angry, its like youre accepting it. Thats exactly why I try not to get frightened or worry about it happening again either. As my mum says, thats like letting them win. The best way is to try and deal with things when they happen. Its an important part of my relationship with mum that she tells me things like this.

My mum also says racism should be talked about in schools so it can be overcome. She says its no good just pretending it doesnt exist because it has a very real history which children should be taught about so they can change it.

I talk a lot about race with my mum these days. I think its because Im older and have more questions, and because she seems to understand a lot more about it than some black mums who just take their colour for granted. The Times.