HOUSTON (AP) _ The seven astronauts who died in the Columbia space shuttle disaster will be honored before the Houston Astros' regular-season opener on April 1.

Representatives of the Columbia crew's families will throw seven ceremonial first pitches, and members of the current astronaut program will be recognized on the field.

Columbia broke apart during its atmospheric re-entry on Feb. 1, just minutes before it was scheduled to land in Florida.

All seven astronauts lived near and trained at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Astros' name, adopted for the 1965 season in the space program's infancy, is itself a tribute to NASA's presence in the community.

The Astros will wear Columbia's STS-107 mission patch for the entire 2002 season in memory of the astronauts.

Other events planned before the Astros' opening-day game against Colorado include an all-day street festival, a blood drive and a 45-minute pregame tribute to NASA.