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Tom Cruise Escaped Fiery Death After Space Shuttle Disaster

Tom Cruise lost his chance to go into space after the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle disaster.

The Hollywood superstar, 53, narrated Space Station 3D, a 2002 short documentary which was the first live-action film to be shot in space.

As part of the deal that saw him involved in the project documenting the assembly of the International Space Station, Tom received secret astronaut training from America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

However plans for him to fly in the organisation's iconic Space Shuttle craft were abandoned when in February 2003 the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated when trying to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere after a mission, killing all seven astronauts on board.

"Tom wanted to be an astronaut, he flies his own GulfStream IV Jet and he's qualified as a pilot," Toni Myers, who directed Space Station 3D tells British newspaper The Sun.

"He was very enthusiastic about doing Space Station 3D but the deal was he also wanted to fly in the Space Shuttle. He had a very good chance of doing so but then the accident happened and that was the end of that."

The disaster was caused by a piece of foam insulation breaking off and damaging the Shuttle's wing. The damage allowed hot gasses to penetrate the spacecraft, causing it to break apart.

After the disaster, Space Shuttle launches were halted for two years before NASA resumed limited flights. The American space agency formally ended the program in 2011.

Since starring in the 1986 blockbuster Top Gun, in which he played a headstrong U.S. Air Force pilot, Tom has taken a number of roles that have seen him embrace space travel and technology.

He has starred in Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow, two science-fiction thrillers which explore mankind's interaction with alien life forms.

In 2013 he told The Sun that he was planning to book a place on British entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space flights, saying, "I'm going to let a couple of other people test it (Virgin Galactic's spacecraft) out first but it would be great. I was always hoping when I was a kid that we would be travelling to different planets by now."

The star, a member of the Church of Scientology religious movement, also revealed he believed the existence of alien life was a strong possibility. "I don't think you can actually count it out," he said. "It might be a little arrogant to think we were the only ones in all the galaxies throughout the universe - but I've never met one!"  

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