U.S. Air Force Col. Rick Husband’s childhood dream was to become an astronaut. He said that the early human space flight programs — Mercury, Gemini and Apollo — made an impression on him. “…watching the Moon landings and everything,” he said, “it was just so incredibly adventurous and exciting to me that I just thought, ‘There is no doubt in my mind that that’s what I want to do when I grow up.'”
The Amarillo, Texas, native was born in 1957. Growing up in West Texas he developed an interest in flying. “I’d be out in my backyard playing,” he said in a preflight crew interview. “And, any time I heard any kind of an airplane, you know, it’s like, stop what you’re doing and take a look and see, ‘Where’s that airplane? What kind is it? Where is it going? How high is it? How fast is it going?'”
After graduating from Amarillo High School in 1975, Husband went to Texas Tech University where he received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1980. He was a member of the school’s Air Force ROTC, which culminated with a commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force.
While at Texas Tech, he sent a letter to NASA asking about requirements to become an astronaut. “I got a package back, and it told about the pilots and the mission specialists and the requirements that were necessary,” he said. “And so, that kind of laid the pathway for what I needed to do if I wanted to be a pilot-astronaut.”
During his tenure in the Air Force, Husband logged more than 3,800 hours of flight time in more than 40 different types of aircraft and served as a flight instructor and a test pilot. He also earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1990 from California State University, Fresno.
After applying four times and being interviewed twice, NASA selected Husband as an astronaut candidate in December 1994. He reported to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in March 1995.
“And so, it was the achievement of a lifelong dream and a goal,” he said. “And, it’s very humbling, I’d say, and exciting at the same time to be able to actually go and do the kind of thing that I’d wanted to do and the thing that I had looked forward to doing for such a long time.”
His first space flight occurred in May and June 1999 when he served as pilot for the 10-day STS-96 mission. That was the first time that a space shuttle docked with the International Space Station.