Tom Cruise narrowly cheated death in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster.

The star wanted to join the crew of the US Space Shuttle Columbia and had hoped to join the fateful mission after being given secret training by NASA.

In return for going into space, Cruise voiced a 3D Imax film, Space Station, for NASA - and helped "fix" their website.

An object is visible falling from the Space Shuttle Columbia during liftoff. Photo / Getty Images
An object is visible falling from the Space Shuttle Columbia during liftoff. Photo / Getty Images

However, the Columbia blew up over Texas while re-entering Earth's atmosphere in 2003, killing all seven crew members on board.

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Toni Myers, director of Space Station, says: "Tom wanted to be an astronaut, he flies his own GulfStream IV Jet and he's quite qualified as a pilot.

"He was very enthusiastic about doing Space Station 3D but the deal was he also wanted to fly in the Space Shuttle."

Cruise was given an induction course by Nasa in Florida and taught how to replicate walking in a space suit by wading in a water tank.

Myers recalls: "He had a very good chance of doing so but then the accident happened and that was the end of that."

The crew of Space Shuttle Columbia, who died when the shuttle exploded on re-entry. Photo / Getty Images
The crew of Space Shuttle Columbia, who died when the shuttle exploded on re-entry. Photo / Getty Images