A brief look at the six Americans and Israel’s first astronaut aboard space shuttle Columbia.
Commander Rick Husband, 45, 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,’’ he said in an interview before Columbia’s launch, his second spaceflight.
Pilot William McCool, 41, Navy commander from Lubbock, Texas, and father of three sons. He graduated second in his 1983 class at the Naval Academy, went on to test pilot school and became an astronaut in 1996. This was his first spaceflight.
Payload commander Michael Anderson, 43, the son of an Air Force man who grew up on military bases. He was flying for the Air Force when NASA chose him in 1994 as one of only a handful of black astronauts. He traveled to Russia’s Mir space station in 1998. The lieutenant colonel was in charge of Columbia’s dozens of science experiments. His home is in Spokane, Wash.
Kalpana Chawla, 41, emigrated to United States from India in 1980s and became an astronaut in 1994. On only other spaceflight, in 1997, she made mistakes that sent science satellite tumbling out of control. Other astronauts had to go on spacewalk to capture it.
David Brown, 46, a Navy captain, pilot and doctor. He joined the Navy after a medical internship, went on to fly the A-6E Intruder and F-18. He became an astronaut in 1996. Columbia’s mission was his first spaceflight.
Laurel Clark, 41, a Navy diving medical officer aboard submarines, then flight surgeon who became an astronaut in 1996. On board Columbia to help with science experiments. Has 8-year-old son. Her home is in Racine, Wis.
Ilan Ramon, 48, a colonel in Israel’s air force and the first Israeli in space. His mother and grandmother survived Auschwitz death camp. Father fought for Israel’s statehood alongside grandfather. Ramon fought in Yom Kippur War 1973 and Lebanon War 1982.
He served as a fighter pilot 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, flew F-16s and F-4s. He was chosen as Israel’s first astronaut in 1997, then moved to Houston the next year to train for shuttle flight. His wife and four children live in Tel Aviv.