Created By The Mercury 7 Astronauts
Rick Hauck flew on three Space Shuttle missions, including command of the redesigned spaceship on its critical first flight after the explosion of Challenger.
Hauck was born in Long Beach, Calif., in 1941. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1962 from Tufts University, where he was a Navy ROTC student. He was commissioned upon graduation and served as communications officer aboard a destroyer for 20 months. In 1964 he attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey,Calif. Selected for the Navy’s Advanced Science Program, he received a Master’s degree in nuclear engineering from MIT in 1966. He began flight training and received his wings in 1968. Deployed to the Western Pacific, he flew 114 combat and combat support missions in Southeast Asia off the carrier USS Coral Sea. Several other assignments followed, including lead Navy test pilot for the carrier suitability of the F-14 Tomcat, and operations officer of a carrier wing flying the A-6, A-7, and F-14 from the deck of the carrier USS Enterprise.
NASA named Hauck to its Astronaut Corps in 1978. His first flight assignment was as pilot for Challenger in 1983 on the seventh shuttle launch. The mission featured the Space Shuttle’s first five-person crew, including the first American woman astronaut, Sally Ride. The astronauts deployed two communications satellites, tested the 50-robot arm, conducted the first formation flying with another satellite, and carried out several experiments.
History’s first space salvage mission began in 1984 when Hauck and his four crew members blasted off in Discovery to rescue two communications satellites stranded in useless orbits when their kick motors failed to ignite after they were released from another shuttle. Early in the flight, the crew successfully released two commercial communications satellites. Then Hauck took off in pursuit of the wayward Palapa and Westar spacecraft, and skillfully guided Discovery to successful rendezvous with first Palapa and then Westar. Two space-walking crew members, Joe Allen and Dale Gardner, after some technical difficulties, succeeded in corralling both and berthing them in the cargo bay for return to earth and repair.
After Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members, NASA launched an extensive investigation and initiated a multi-million dollar overhaul of the remaining fleet. When NASA was ready to return to flight, Hauck was selected to command a crew of five veteran Space Shuttle fliers to test the redesigned spacecraft. Excitement, tempered by memories of Challenger, built on September 29, 1988, as the countdown entered the final hours. Discovery lifted off flawlessly, and at a White House ceremony, President Ronald Reagan announced “America is back in space!” Six hours into the mission, the astronauts deployed a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, replacing one destroyed in the Challenger explosion. During four days aloft they conducted several experiments and tested more than 200 changes made to the orbiter since Challenger. A day before returning to earth, they paid an emotional tribute to the Challenger crew.
Hauck left NASA in 1989 to become Director of Navy Space Systems in the Pentaggon He retired from business life in 2005 after fourteen years as president and CEO of AXA Space, Bethesda, MD. Hauck serves on the Board of Directors of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on November 10, 2001.