In another in a series of memorial services for the seven astronauts killed when the shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas on Saturday morning, National Aeronautics and Space Administration employees arrived on 18 buses from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and from NASA headquarters downtown and filled the pews of the majestic Gothic cathedral, many with space shuttle lapel pins and faces wet with tears.
Cheney hailed the crew members as brave explorers who were united "not by faith or heritage, but by the calling they answered and shared."
He said that although many memorials will be built to honor Columbia's crew, the greatest memorial will be a vibrant space program with missions carried out by a new generation of explorers.
"The Columbia is lost," he said, "but the dreams that inspired its crew remain with us."
He said the families of the astronauts have urged officials to go on with the space program. "The legacy of Columbia must carry on, they tell us, for the benefit of our children and yours," Cheney said. "Those dreams are carried by the dedicated men and women of NASA who, time and time again, have achieved the seemingly impossible and whose strength and skill will return us to space."
During yesterday's 90-minute service of tributes, prayers and music, many dabbed at tears as Patti LaBelle sang "Way Up There," a song written for NASA to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight. Since last week, the song has become a sort of anthem for the Columbia tragedy.
LaBelle, choked with emotion, looked up to the soaring limestone arches of the cathedral as she sang the final verse: "Way up there where peace remains, bring us closer to our home in space."
With a backdrop of the flags of the United States, NASA and Israel - in honor of Israeli astronaut Ramon - the service reflected the much-celebrated diversity of the crew.
Cabana, a former astronaut, provided colorful glimpses into the personalities of the crew.
He said Ramon joked from orbit that he had "ground sickness" and therefore couldn't return to Earth. "I must stay in space longer," Ramon told the flight surgeon, Cabana said.
Cabana said he had never met anyone with the discipline of Chawla, the diminutive, Indian-born mission specialist. When he recently sent an e-mail to her in space to say he missed seeing her at the gym, she replied that she was getting plenty of exercise aboard the shuttle and challenged him to a push-up contest - "but only while she was in microgravity," Cabana reported.
Husband, the gentle, mild-mannered commander of the Columbia, was the "antithesis" of the image of a fighter pilot, Cabana said. "But what really set him apart was his faith."
"They were ambassadors of good will for all mankind to the universe," he said.
O'Keefe pointed out that the National Cathedral's stained-glass "Space Window" contains a piece of moon rock brought back by the first men to reach the moon. It "reminds us that the exploration of space will go on," he said.
Addressing what he called the "NASA family," O'Keefe pledged to find the cause of last week's accident, correct whatever problems are found and get back to exploring space in pursuit of such discoveries as lifesaving drugs and a cure for cancer.
"We will persevere," he told the mourners. "We will not let you down."