The crew of the U.S. space shuttle Columbia included six American astronauts and the first Israeli to fly in space.
Ilan Ramon was an Israeli Air Force colonel and the son of a Holocaust survivor. He was one of Israel's top pilots and had logged thousands of hours of flight time, much of it in American-built fighter jets. He was reported to be one of the pilots who took part in Israel's 1981 raid on an unfinished nuclear reactor in Iraq. Colonel Ramon began training to fly on the space shuttle in 1997. He was 48 years old and had a wife and four children.
The commander of the Columbia mission was U.S. Air Force Colonel Rick Husband, who was 45 years old and a former test pilot. He joined NASA's space program in 1994 and had flown on one previous space shuttle mission. He lived in Amarillo, Texas.
The pilot was U.S. Navy Commander William McCool, who was also a former test pilot but was on his first shuttle mission. He joined NASA in 1996. He was 41 years old and the father of three sons.
The shuttle's flight engineer was Kalpana Chawla, an Indian-born woman who was an aerospace engineer and the most experienced astronaut on the mission with nearly 400 hours in space. She was a flight instructor who studied aeronautical engineering at Punjab Engineering College before emigrating to the United States in the early 1980s and becoming an American citizen. She was 41 years old.
The second woman on the shuttle crew was U.S. Navy Commander Laurel Clark, a naval flight surgeon on her first space flight since being selected to join the NASA space program in 1996. She was also 41 years old, and the mother of an eight-year-old son who lives in Racine, Wisconsin.
The payload commander of the Columbia crew was Michael Anderson, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who had logged more than 200 hours in space on a previous shuttle mission in 1998 that included a visit to Russia's Mir space station. Mr. Anderson was in charge of the science mission of shuttle. Mr. Anderson was one of several black astronauts in the U.S. space program. He was 43 years old and lived in Spokane, Washington.
The seventh member of the crew was U.S. Navy Captain David Brown, who was a naval pilot and flight surgeon. He was on his first space flight, after joining the NASA program in 1996.