Four days before he was killed aboard space shuttle Columbia, Col. Rick Husband took a moment of silence to remember the astronauts who died in previous space disasters.
"It is today that we remember and honor the crews of Apollo 1 and Challenger," the shuttle commander said on Tuesday, the 17th anniversary of the Challenger explosion.
"They made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives and service to the country and for all mankind," Husband radioed from Columbia before the airwaves went silent. "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 45-year-old Air Force colonel, a test pilot before he was selected as an astronaut in 1994, was on his second spaceflight. He piloted the Discovery shuttle for 10 days in 1999 on a mission that involved the crew's first docking aboard an international space station.
Husband told his father he wanted to be an astronaut at age 5.
"It's been pretty much a lifelong dream and just a thrill to be able to get to actually live it out," Husband said in a recent interview.
Husband studied at Texas Tech University and earned his master's degree in 1990 from California State University in Fresno. He took a red Bulldog sweatshirt into space with him and planned to present it to the school in April, university spokesman Tom Uribes said.
In southeast Houston, where he lived with his wife and two children, he sang in the Grace Community Church choir.
"He was a wonderful man, a very strong Christian," neighbor Debbie Chatham said, sobbing Saturday. "He was very dedicated to God and helping other people."
Copyright © 2003 The Associated Press