Commander Rick Husband, 45, was an Air Force Colonel from Amarillo, Texas. The former test pilot was selected as an astronaut in 1994 on his fourth try. He made up his mind as a child that that was what he was going to do with his life.
"It's been pretty much a lifelong dream and just a thrill to be able to get to actually live it out," the married father of two said in an interview before Columbia's launch, his second spaceflight.
Husband delivered a statement from space just days ago for an event marking the anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion.
"They made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives and service to their country and for all mankind," said Husband. "Their dedication and devotion to the exploration of space was an inspiration to each of us and still motivates people around the world to achieve great things and service to others."
The statement, which takes on new meaning in the wake of Saturday's tragedy, came from a man who had expressed great excitement for the Columbia mission, and confidence nothing would go wrong. It was Columbia's 28 trip into space.
Speaking to a group of middle school students before he left, Husband, who had traveled to space before on the shuttle Discovery in 1999, said,
"I'm not afraid to go into space, I'm looking forward to it -- something I've wanted to do all my life."