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Rick Husband
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    (July 12, 1957-February 1, 2003)
    Born in Amarillo, Texas
    US Air Force Colonel
    Piloted the Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-96 (1999)
    Commanded the Columbia on mission STS-107 (2003)
    Died with six other crew members when Columbia disintegrated during re-entry
    Shuttle broke apart as a result of damage to the left wing caused by a piece of foam insulation that broke off from the shuttle's external tank during lift off
    He was part of a group of astronauts who dubbed themselves 'the Flying Escargot.'
    The piece of foam that caused the disaster, the Left Bipod Foam Ramp, was later determined to be unnecessary by NASA and was eliminated for subsequent shuttle flights.
    His explanation for becoming a shuttle commander after only one flight -- 'I think a lot of it has to do with being in the right place at the right time' -- took on a certain morbid irony after the disaster.
    He said, 'I first started thinking about becoming an astronaut when I was about four years old. It really captured my imagination.'
    He was devoutly religious but did not push his views on other people.
    He was the first astronaut since 1993 to be promoted to commander after his first shuttle flight.
    NASA sent him an email telling him about the foam hitting the shuttle wing, but reassured him 'We have seen this same phenomenon on several other flights and there is absolutely no concern for entry.'
    NASA originally claimed that Columbia had to risk re-entry despite the damage because there was no possible way to rescue the crew.
    However, an accident investigation board concluded that Columbia had enough supplies to stay in orbit until February 15, while the shuttle Atlantis, which was being prepared for a schedule March 1 launch, could have undergone an expedited procedure to launch on February 10, producing a five-day window for a possible rescue mission.

Credit: C. Fishel

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