When the Discovery shuttle launched late Friday night, Astronaut Patrick Forrester carried a piece of missionary pilot Nate Saint's aircraft, the Piper PA-14.
Saint and four other missionaries were martyred by a tribe of Waodani Indians on a sandbar in Ecuador on January 8, 1956. The tribesmen were later lead to faith in Christ by relatives of the slain missionaries.
The incident drew worldwide news coverage, leading to a renewed interest in missionary service. Forrester hoped that Friday's voyage would have a similar effect.
For more on this story, click here to see Gary Lane's interview with Missionary Aviation Fellowship spokesman Gene Jordan.
"Bringing attention to and renewing interest in missions would be a great result of this experience," said Forrester, who was born in El Paso, Texas, a year after the missionaries' deaths.
"My deepest intent is to honor Nate Saint, the Saint family and all missionaries around the world," he said.
The trip is Forrester's third shuttle flight in his 16-year tenure with NASA. He also spent more 26 years as an Army aviator. Still, Forrester claims his dream has always been to work in missionary aviation.
"I've always had a heart for missions," Forrester said. "When I visualize what I might do after I end my career at NASA, always in the back of my mind is going into the mission field in some way. If I could go tomorrow and be a pilot with an organization like MAF, I think that's what I'd do."
Saint's aircraft is currently on display at the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) in Nampa, Idaho.
*Original Broadcast Date: August 25, 2009.