At NASA Road One, Loss Is Personal

An American flag blows near an unofficial memorial at the Johnson Space Center entrance Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2003, in Houston, Texas. President Bush and first lady Laura Bush head the guest list for a memorial service Tuesday for the seven astronauts of the space shuttle Columbia at the Johnson Space Center.

Flags are flying at half-staff across America, but they flutter a bit lower along NASA Road One: the road leading to the Johnson Space Center, where the main gate is this nation's newest instant memorial to tragedy and a teen-ager cries for a classmate whose father was on Columbia:

"He was so proud of his father," says Kara Magaw. "He wore his little NASA pin to school everyday."

As CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports, the loss is personal here, where street names and store fronts mirror the company town and signs of grief are going up letter by letter:

"These individuals are not only astronauts, they're our neighbors and friends," says store owner Jim Stoa.

For too many people it's 1986 all over again.

Real estate agent Betty Taylor had a neighbor who was killed on the Challenger disaster.

At Picadilly's cafeteria, some wonder if the outside world understands.

"I guess some people don't realize what a risk they take when they do fly," says one customer.

But they do along NASA road.

Frenchie's Italian restaurant is an old astronaut hangout. The Columbia crew was here a few weeks ago to celebrate shuttle pilot William McCool's birthday.

"This was really a crew where I felt they were so together, and we will miss them," says owner Frankie Camera.

Across the road, the Outpost Tavern remains a throwback to the wild old days: a wall-to-wall shrine to the spirit of NASA's space cowboys:

"They train and train and train for this stuff," says owner Stan Aden. "Sometimes for eight or 12 years even, to fly one time.

"So, it's the right stuff."

But sometimes even the right stuff isn't enough. And that's why at this time in this company town, there's so much soul searching going on.

"And so I can feel the pain that the shuttle engineers feel because apparently we missed something," says Mary Williams, of the NASA space station team.

A time of celebration has turned to mourning along NASA Road One - the road to space.