Rick Husband had just one other space flight under his belt before he was given the role of commander.
"I think a lot of it has to do with being in the right place at the right time, for starters," Husband, a 45-year-old Air Force colonel from Amarillo, Texas, said during a preflight interview.
Husband was married with two children.
The former test pilot was selected as an astronaut in 1994 on his fourth try. Space flight was his lifelong passion, along with singing. Husband, a baritone, had barbershop quartet experience and sang in church choirs.
He also enjoyed water and snow skiing, cycling, and spending time with his family.
Husband graduated from Amarillo High School in 1975. He received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Texas Tech University in 1980, and a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from California State University, Fresno, in 1990.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.