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NASA reacts to Beyoncé song

NASA officials say the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster “should never be trivialized” in response to a new song from Beyoncé that features an audio sample recorded just after the craft exploded on takeoff in 1986, killing all seven crewmembers.

The space agency issued the statement late Tuesday after the pop star began to receive criticism from Challenger families and others for using the short sample that includes the words “major malfunction” as an allusion to a failed relationship.

“The Challenger accident is an important part of our history; a tragic reminder that space exploration is risky and should never be trivialized,” said the statement from Lauren B. Worley, NASA’s press secretary. “NASA works every day to honor the legacy of our fallen astronauts as we carry out our mission to reach for new heights and explore the universe.”

NASA’s response came after Beyoncé explained the use of the short snippet in a statement to ABC News Tuesday that stopped short of an apology. The sample appears at the beginning of her song “XO” from her new self-titled album.

“My heart goes out to the families of those lost in the Challenger disaster,” Beyoncé’s statement said. “The song ‘XO’ was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you. The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten.”

Steel receives Legion of Honor

Novelist Danielle Steel joined the ranks of Douglas MacArthur, Julia Child, Walt Disney, Alan Greenspan and Bob Dylan on Wednesday when she became the latest American to receive France’s highest award, the Legion of Honor.

Steel, who has sold some 600 million books worldwide and lives in San Francisco and Paris, was made a “chevalier” of the order. In 2002, she had been named an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters, France’s top cultural honor.

In reporting the new award, the Telegraph cited a comment Steel had once made about her influences: “Well, I always go back to the classics. I love French literature. Colette is a special favorite of mine.”

Among the other honorees named in the traditional Jan. 1 announcement were the Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, the actress Michele Morgan, and the circus performer and director James Thierrée, Charlie Chaplin’s grandson.

Cuoco, Sweeting get hitched

“The Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco is starting off 2014 as a Mrs.

Cuoco’s representative, Melissa Kates, says the actress wed tennis pro Ryan Sweeting in a New Year’s Eve ceremony at a ranch in Santa Susana, Calif.

Afterward, the 28-year-old Cuoco posted a few photos with her 26-year-old husband on her Instagram account. She wore a pink Vera Wang wedding gown and captioned one picture as “Greatest night of my entire life.”

The couple dated for three months before getting engaged in September.

Cuoco previously dated her “Big Bang” co-star Johnny Galecki.