There are many people that are willing to put their lives on the line for what they believe in. We are most familiar with the police officers and firemen of their city. It's important to note that scientists, especially in the field of space exploration, are literally headed into the unknown to help us understand the world and universe that we live in.
On Jan 16, 2003, space shuttle Columbia blasted off on its final mission. Columbia had a long and distinguished career, having served in NASA's first missions in 1981, assisted with the flight of the Spacelab space station, and helped service the Hubble space telescope.
This particular mission was less buzzworthy - it "was dedicated to research in physical, life, and space sciences, conducted in approximately 80 separate experiments, comprised of hundreds of samples and test points.". These experiments are all crucial. NASA does not take lightly the fact that it is sending human beings into space to perform these experiments.
Unfortunately, Columbia disintegrated upon reentry on February 1, 2003. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe wrote a statement that day with the following words.
We trust the prayers of the Nation will be with them and with their families. A more courageous group of people you could not have hoped to know— an extraordinary group of astronauts who gave their lives—and the families of these crewmembers. They knew exactly the risks. And never, ever did we want to see a circumstance in which this could happen.
We diligently dedicate ourselves every single day to assuring these things don’t occur. And when they do we have to act responsibly, accountably and that is exactly what we will do
Blessings to all affected by the loss of Columbia.