Space Shuttle Commander Col. Rick D. Husband, U.S. Air Force, was returning from his second shuttle mission when the space vehicle broke up over Texas Saturday morning.
Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1994, he was the pilot on the Discovery STS-96 mission in 1999.
Husband was named as the Astronaut Office representative for Advanced Projects at Johnson Space Center, working on space shuttle upgrades, the crew return vehicle and studies to return to the Moon and travel to Mars. He also served as chief of safety for the Astronaut Office.
"Safety is a very, very important aspect of everything that we do, and certainly whenever we launch. The amount of energy that's being expended during launch and ascent is a mind-boggling amount of energy that's being released -- and it's got to be released in a very controlled fashion," Husband said prior to the mission.
"We have to take a look at the small portions of every process to make sure that they're being done in a safe way and in a technically sound way to try and minimize the risks. You can't eliminate risk in anything, but what you try and do is take a good, smart look at it -- and try to minimize those risks to maximize your chances for success."
After graduation from Texas Tech University in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in science in mechanical engineering, Husband was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. A trained test pilot, he logged over 3,800 hours of flight time in more than 40 different types of aircraft. He earned a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from California State University, Fresno, in 1990.
A native of Amarillo, Texas, Husband was married and the father of two. He was 45.
He was honored with the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal.
(Editors: UPI photos WAX2003020116 and WAX2003020122 available)