Astronaut Daniel Tani, orbiting 200 miles above the Earth in the International Space Station, learned yesterday that his 90-year-old mother, Rose, had been killed when her car was struck by a freight train outside Chicago, reports the Chicago Tribune. Police said she drove around a school bus stopped at the tracks, past a lowered gate, and into the path of the train.
Tani, the youngest of four siblings, was raised by his widowed mother and the two were “incredibly close,” the family's longtime pastor said. Tani's ISS mission began Oct. 23; he was originally scheduled to return to Earth today, but glitches with shuttle Atlantis pushed back a landing until late January. A rescue capsule attached to the ISS can only be used in emergencies. A NASA spokesman said Tani “feels relatively powerless."