With the future of space exploration hanging in the balance, U.S. Air Force Col. Eileen Collins led the Discovery team into the firmament and back again in the first launch since the shuttle Columbia disintegrated two years ago.

Former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission William Donaldson, a Republican, repeatedly sided with the SEC's two Democrats in 3-2 votes for tougher rules on business and increased investor protection -- despite attacks from business and his own party.

When his company lost its bitter battle against Oracle's hostile takeover, founder and former CEO of PeopleSoft David Duffield offered $10,000 of his own money to each pink-slipped employee making less than $150,000, unlike other chiefs who grabbed the golden parachute and waved good-bye.

Jailed for refusing to betray a confidential source for a story she never wrote about the outing of a CIA agent, New York Times reporter Judith Miller remained uncowed. Without confidentiality, she told Judge Thomas Hogan, "there cannot be a free press."

In the wake of an $11 billion accounting fraud, newly hired MCI president and CEO Michael Capellas hired an ethics officer, set up anonymous employee hotlines to report code-of-conduct violations, and led MCI out of bankruptcy.

Think Secret editor and publisher Nicholas Ciarelli's posts of insider news about Apple prompted a lawsuit by the notoriously secretive computer maker. Claiming First Amendment protection, he continues to scoop Apple's product rollouts, despite its ham-fisted intimidation.

Over 18 months, Motorola chairman and CEO Ed Zander spun off Motorola's faltering semiconductor unit and bet the future on innovative design. He rushed the Razorphone into production and helped make 2004 Motorola's best year ever.

Last April, Hannah Jones, vice president of corporate responsibility for Nike, produced a warts-and-all report chronicling evidence of child labor and sexual harassment. It instantly made Nike's supply chain transparent.

Pfizer vice president of marketing Peter Rost boldly broke ranks with his employer when he publicly called for legislation allowing for the import of lower-priced medicines from Canada and elsewhere, a practice the drug industry bitterly opposed.