Richard A. Searfoss : biography
Richard Alan Searfoss (born June 5, 1956) is a retired United States Air Force colonel, NASA astronaut and test pilot.
Searfoss was born on June 5, 1956, in Mount Clemens, Michigan, but considers Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to be his hometown. Growing up, he became an Eagle Scout.
After graduating from Portsmouth Senior High School, Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1974, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 1978, and a Masters of Science degree in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology on a National Science Foundation Fellowship in 1979. In the Air Force, he attended Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College.
Civilian space projects
After leaving NASA, Searfoss served as a judge for the Ansari X-Prize, where he officially declared SpaceShipOne to have won the competition on October 4, 2004 after completing two flights within a two-week period.
Searfoss is a test pilot instructor at the National Test Pilot School at the Mojave Spaceport.
Searfoss is one of two test pilots qualified to fly the XCOR Aerospace EZ-Rocket. He also served as XCOR’s only test pilot for a rocket-powered prototype racing aircraft. He has a total of 52 rocket-powered flights and is the world’s only tri-qualified rocket pilot (Space Shuttle, EZ Rocket, Rocket Racer prototype).
Most recently, in 2008, he was a featured guest in a Volkswagen commercial, where he argued with a black Beetle about who has more engineers between Volkswagen and NASA.
Selected by NASA in January 1990, Searfoss became an astronaut in July 1991. Initially assigned to the Astronaut Office Mission Support Branch, Searfoss was part of a team responsible for crew ingress/strap-in prior to launch and crew egress after landing. He was subsequently assigned to flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL). Additionally, he served as the Astronaut Office representative for both flight crew procedures and Shuttle computer software development. He also served as the Astronaut Office Vehicle System and Operations Branch Chief, leading a team of several astronauts and support engineers working on Space Shuttle and International Space Station systems development, rendezvous and landing/rollout operations, and advanced projects initiatives.
Searfoss served as STS-58 pilot on the seven-person life science research mission aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, launching from the Kennedy Space Center on October 18, 1993, and landing at Edwards Air Force Base on November 1, 1993. The crew performed neurovestibular, cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, metabolic, and musculoskeletal medical experiments on themselves and 48 rats, expanding our knowledge of human and animal physiology both on earth and in space flight. In addition, the crew performed 16 engineering tests aboard the Orbiter Columbia and 20 Extended Duration Orbiter Medical Project experiments. The mission was accomplished in 225 orbits of the Earth.
Launching March 22, 1996, Searfoss flew his second mission as pilot of STS-76 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. During this 9-day mission the STS-76 crew performed the third docking of an American spacecraft with the Russian space station Mir. In support of a joint U.S./Russian program, the crew transported to Mir nearly two tons of water, food, supplies, and scientific equipment, as well as U.S. Astronaut Shannon Lucid to begin her six-month stay in space. STS-76 included the first ever spacewalk on a combined Space Shuttle-Space Station complex. The flight crew also conducted scientific investigations, including European Space Agency sponsored biology experiments, the Kidsat earth observations project, and several engineering flight tests. Completed in 145 orbits, STS-76 landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on March 31, 1996.
Searfoss commanded a seven person crew on the STS-90 Neurolab mission which launched on April 17, 1998. During the 16-day Spacelab flight the crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments focusing on the effects of microgravity on the brain and nervous system. STS-90 was the last and most complex of the twenty-five Spacelab missions NASA has flown. Neurolab’s scientific results will have broad applicability both in preparing for future long duration human space missions and in clinical applications on Earth. Completed in 256 orbits, STS-90 landed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on May 3, 1998.