Space Tourist, Astronauts Grieve for Virginia Tech Shooting Victims

Fresh Crew, Space Tourist Arrive at Space Station
The six-member ISS crew during a conference call with Russian ground control shortly after Soyuz docking.
(Image: © NASA TV)

Five professional astronauts and an American visitor to the International Space Station (ISS) expressed grief Thursday for those killed and wounded during a student gunman's attack at Virginia Tech this week.

"All of us on the International Space Station are deeply saddened by the tragic news from Virginia Tech University," U.S. space tourist Charles Simonyi, who is due to return to Earth Saturday with the outpost's homecoming crew aboard a Soyuz TMA-9 spacecraft, wrote in his Web site blog. "We may be many miles away physically but our hearts are with the students, their families and university communities everywhere and we are grieved by the lives and contributions that have been cut short. Our thoughts and prayers"

According to police, student Cho Seung-Hui shot and killed 32 people and himself during two Monday attacks more than two hours apart at the Blacksburg, Virginia university.

Among those injured was student Kristina Heeger, daughter of Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson, who underwent surgery for multiple injuries and was reportedly doing well.

"The tragedy has hit close to home for the Space Adventures family, as one of the wounded students worked summers at the company," Simonyi wrote. "We wish Kristina a full recovery and send our heartfelt best wishes to her family."

The Vienna, Virginia-based Space Adventures offers a range of spaceflight experiences and arranged Simonyi's 14-day spaceflight to the ISS under a deal brokered with Russia's Federal Space Agency. Simonyi, 58, a former Microsoft software developer and lifelong spaceflight enthusiast, is paying between $20 million and $25 million for is trek to the space station, and is documenting his flight via his Web site: www.charlesinspace.com.

Simonyi, the world's fifth space tourist to visit the ISS, is scheduled to land in Kazakhstan Saturday at about 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT) alongside Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Mikhail Tyurin, who are completing seven-month mission to the orbital laboratory. He launched spaceward on April 7 with Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, who joined NASA astronaut Sunita Williams aboard the station.

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