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Shuttle Disaster: Roll-call of the astronaut heroes who looked fear in the face on space flight.

These are the six Americans and Israel's first astronaut who were aboard space shuttle Columbia: . Commander Rick Husband, aged 45, was an Air Force colonel from Amarillo, Texas. The former test pilot, who worked with the RAF in the 1980s, was selected as an astronaut in 1994 on his fourth attempt. He made up his mind as a child 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 the launch of Columbia, his second spaceflight. . Pilot William McCool, aged 41, was a US Navy commander who grew up in Lubbock, Texas. He graduated second in his class of 1983 at the Naval Academy, went on to test pilot school and became an astronaut in 1996. This was the first space flight for McCool, who was married with three sons, ages 22, 19 and 14.

. Payload commander Michael Anderson, aged 43, was the son of an Air Force man and grew up on military bases. He was flying for the US Air Force when Nasa chose him in 1994 as one of only a handful of black astronauts. He travelled to Russia's Mir space station in 1998.

The lieutenant colonel, who lived in Spokane, Washington, was in charge of Columbia's dozens of science experiments.

'I take the risk because I think what we're doing is really important,' he said.

. Kalpana Chawla, aged 41, emigrated to the United States from India in the 1980s and became an astronaut in 1994. At the time, she wanted to design aircraft and the space programme was the furthest thing from her mind.

'That would be too farfetched,' the engineer had said. But 'one thing led to another' and she was chosen as an astronaut after working at Nasa's Ames Research Centre and Overset Methods Incorporated in Northern California.

Chawla was a heroine in India, which has launched satellites for years and is preparing for a moon orbit this decade. One Indian news agency even tracked Columbia's flight so it could tell readers the exact minute they could wave to the skies to hail their countrywoman.

On her only other spaceflight, in 1997, she made mistakes that sent a science satellite tumbling out of control.

. Ilan Ramon, aged 48, was a colonel in Israel's air force and the first Israeli in space. His mother and grandmother survived the Auschwitz death camp, and his father fought for Israel's statehood. Ramon fought in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the Lebanon War in 1982.

He served as a fighter pilot in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, flying 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 the shuttle flight.

His wife, Rona, and their four children live in Tel Aviv.

Before Columbia launched, Ramon repeatedly said he was not nervous or afraid about his safety aboard the space shuttle.

. David Brown, aged 46, was a US Navy captain, pilot and doctor. He joined the Navy after a medical internship, then went on to fly the A-6E Intruder and F-18. He became an astronaut in 1996. Columbia's mission was his first spaceflight.

When asked about the risk of flying in space, Brown, who was single, said: 'I made a decision that is part of my job, I would incur some real risk as a routine part of my job when I joined the Navy and started flying ... airplanes off of ships, particularly airplanes off of ships at night. The decision to fly in space is just an extension of that.'

. Laurel Clark, aged 41, was a diving medical officer aboard submarines and then a flight surgeon before she became an astronaut in 1996. She was on board to help with experiments. 'I think my family has a fairly practical and pragmatic view that the actual launching into space is much more dangerous than any of the other security concerns,' said Clark, who lived in Wisconsin, and was married with an eightyear-old son.

CAPTION(S):

A woman weeps holding a picture of her daughter with Indian-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla in Karnal, in the north of India
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Feb 3, 2003
Words:714
Previous Article:Shuttle Disaster: Briton who trained with shuttle crew.
Next Article:Shuttle Disaster: Nasa 'will redesign the shuttle for Mars mission'.


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