EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Former NASA research pilot and astronaut Richard “Rick” Searfoss died Sept. 29 at his home in Bear Valley Springs, California. He was 62.
Searfoss, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, served as a research pilot in the flight crew branch at NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center in California from July 2001 to February 2003, having brought with him over 5,000 hours of military flying and 939 hours in space.
He flew on three space flights, onboard space shuttles Columbia and Atlantis, logging 39 days in space. Searfoss was the pilot for his first two space missions, STS-58 and STS-76, landing both times at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Once at Dryden, medical staff was standing by for the astronauts as well as personnel who supported the NASA convoy team in preparing the shuttle for its return ferry flight to Florida.
He also served as commander of a seven-person crew on STS-90. For more on his astronaut career and his numerous recognition awards, go to: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/three-time-space-shuttle-astronaut-ri…
“Rick was a brilliant engineer, terrific pilot and superb shuttle commander,” recalled former NASA astronaut Mike Mullane. “He spent his career dedicated to the advancement of aviation and space exploration. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered by his NASA colleagues.”
Before joining NASA, Searfoss graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy with an aeronautical engineering degree in 1978. He earned his Master of Science degree in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology in 1979.
He completed his undergraduate pilot training in 1980. His training lead to flying F-111s for the Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England and at Mountain Home Air Force Base in in Idaho.
This diverse training gave Searfoss the opportunity to attend the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School as a U.S. Air Force pilot exchange officer in 1988. He was also an instructor pilot for the Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base before he was selected for the astronaut program in 1990.
He logged more than 5,000 hours of flight time in 56 different aircraft, and held a Federal Aviation Administration airline transport pilot, glider and flight instructor ratings. He ended his NASA career at Armstrong as a pilot; a passion for flight that he had held throughout his life.