"Like all Americans, I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and her crew this morning over Texas.
"We Floridians are especially proud that our astronauts, our modern-day adventurers, embark on their journeys from our own beloved shores. Our state hosts training and provides support to these astronauts and their families, and we feel a special connection to those who inspire all Americans. When they do not return to us, we are reminded that the spirit of exploration and discovery cannot be realized without great risk, and sometimes great sacrifice.
"To the families of those we lost today, Columba and I extend our deepest sympathies. Our prayers are with you."
-- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
"I am deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy we witnessed today. My prayers go out to all of the families, our country and the Israelis. I remember when 17 years ago nearly to the day, the Challenger exploded. I was outside on a walk. I saw the skies light up and at that moment I knew something terrible had occurred.
"My heart goes out to the brave men and women who lost their lives on the space shuttle Columbia. These brave astronauts undertook a tremendously dangerous mission for the advancement of science. In fact the crew had conducted 80 experiments during their 16-day mission, investigating everything from microgravity research to physiological and biochemical experiments to further research on bone and prostate cancer.
"Like all Americans, I think it is of the utmost importance to remember that these missions are extremely dangerous, and one should not take them for granted. …