Glimpses of a Godly Astronaut

Byron Barlowe, Leadership University Editor

The disintegration of the space shuttle Columbia and the deaths of its seven crew members shook Americans and the world recently. News reports from Houston, where crew members made their homes, and elsewhere paint a picture of a tight and diverse team marked by the leadership of a deeply committed Christian, Colonel Rick Husband. In interviews with NASA and news outlets, Husband had made clear his priorities to his family over his career and noted his "relationship to Jesus Christ" as primary. Eyewitnesses to a recent Christian music concert add to that legacy of integrity and faith.

Popular Christian recording artist Steve Green met Rick Husband, commander of the doomed space shuttle mission downed on February 1, 2003, several years ago at one of his concerts. Husband and his wife went forward to greet Steve that night and tell him how much they enjoyed his music. When Huband's wife whispered to Green that her husband, Rick, was an astronaut, Green immediately began asking him questions about his profession and "making a big deal out of it." The crowd waiting in line to greet the star of the show suddenly turned their interest to Colonel Husband.

Americans' adoration of astronauts once again carried the crowd. The life of this heralded explorer and his crew will make an impact for a long time, it seems.

That concert encounter was the beginning of Green's and Husband's friendship, which had grown closer over the years. Three years ago, Green sang at a pre-mission reception as Husband's guest. Again before the ill-fated launch of January, 2003, Green sang of faith at a dinner attended by many who did not share the openly evangelistic Christianity of shuttle commander Husband.

Then, only twelve hours after the disastrous return flight of the 113th space shuttle mission (STS-107), at a concert in Cary, North Carolina, Green sadly but joyfully testified of his unlikely friend, now a fallen American hero. The picture of a godly man emerged for concert-goers stunned by the national loss as Green described his ongoing correspondence with Husband - he had even exchanged emails about the awe-inspring Creation he viewed from the shuttle just days earlier. A song from Green's latest album served as the wake-up tune one morning on the unfortunate shuttle mission, the idea of Husband's wife, also a committed Christian. 1"God of Wonders beyond our galaxy," it began, "You are holy, holy.... The universe declares your majesty...." Many in the concert audience shed tears as a video version of the song, prepared before the catastrophe, featured images of Husband's wife and two children and Husband at work in space along with breathtaking photographs of the galaxies. Green said he never intended to show it to a concert audience, but happened to have the tape with him the day the shuttle was lost.

A fact alluded to only obliquely in the mainstream media (if at all), Green stated that he knows of three professing followers of Christ on the team of seven who perished: mission commander Rick Husband, payload commander Michael Anderson and one other. According to audience members, Green told of a day shared with the Husband and Anderson families one week previous to liftoff. One memory of that time struck Green particularly: Husband had created separate daily videotaped devotionals for both of his children corresponding to his scheduled 17 days away - a total of 34 tapes. This kind of caring translated to his leadership of the shuttle crew. According to Navy Capt. Kent Rominger, chief of the Astronaut Corps. Eulogizing the crew and its commander at a memorial service at the Johnson Space Center in Houston on February 4, Rominger bragged that Husband was able to take a crew from three nations, various religious background and a wide range of experiences and mold them into a cohesive, effective "family."

The legacy of Husband has already turned this tragedy into a testimony of faith in the Creator and hope in His loving care, no matter what befalls His children. There was obviously something particularly magnetic about the doomed crew's team leader that begs for reflection.

1 God of Wonders by Marc Byrd and Steve Hindalong from City on a Hill, 2000 Bridge Building Music, Inc./Storm Boy Music/BMI/New Spring Publishing, Inc./Never Say Never Songs/ASCAP.