Colonel Rick Searfoss, USAF, ret
June 5, 1956 - September 29, 2018
We lost a true friend today when Col. Rick Searfoss, USAF, ret., NASA astronaut, Space Shuttle pilot and commander, commercial space flight test pilot and motivational speaker, passed away at home on Saturday, September 29, at age 62.
A frequent visitor to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, Col. Searfoss served as keynote speaker at our annual aerospace festival for families, AerospaceFest, in 2011 and 2017, and at our 2010 gala and auction. Rick was inspiring - and fun. His stories of life as an Air Force pilot, as an astronaut living and working in space and as a test pilot for one of the first commercial spaceflight companies emphasized leadership and teamwork, in a way that was meaningful for children and adults alike. We always enjoyed his visits, and whenever we asked him to headline an event, he was here in a heartbeat. He got a kick out of the fact that we’d spotted him in the Green Lantern movie. He was the science adviser on this and a few other Hollywood productions and was in just the right place at the right time to be cast as a general.
Although he was born in Mount Clemens, MI, Rick considered Portsmouth NH his hometown. He grew up in Portsmouth, graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1974 and headed off to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he earned a BS in aeronautical engineering, followed by an MS in aeronautics at the California Institute of Technology. He was also a graduate of the USAF Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College. After flying the F-111F operationally and serving as a test pilot instructor at the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base (CA), Searfoss was selected to join NASA’s astronaut corps in 1990. He served as a Space Shuttle pilot on his first and second missions (STS-58, 1993; STS-76, 1996) and rose to Space Shuttle Commander for his third and final mission in 1998, the Neurolab mission (STS-90), in which three of the seven crew members were from New Hampshire (Searfoss, Drs. Jay Buckey of Hanover NH and Rick Linnehan of Pelham NH). Col. Searfoss and his fellow NH crewmembers did a downlink with the Center from the Space Shuttle Columbia in April 1998, speaking with children who had visited from the three astronauts’ hometowns. He later went on to serve as a test pilot for the private sectorl experimental space flight company, Xcor, and then as a motivational speaker.
Rick will be very much missed. We had hoped for many more visits in the coming years. There are few who could match his enthusiasm for space exploration and for encouraging the next generation to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). He never lectured, he engaged – completely and thoroughly.
Col. Searfoss leaves behind his four favorite people on the planet: his wife Julie McGuire Searfoss and their three daughters, Megan, Liz and Camille. Funeral services were held Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, at 2 p.m., preceded by a viewing at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 600 Anita Drive, Tehachapi, CA. Wood Family Funeral Service was entrusted with his care; for condolences:
Jeanne T. Gerulskis
Executive Director, McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center