Husband, Rick Douglas (1957–2003)

By: Joshua D. Tilley

Type: Biography

Published: May 31, 2017

Updated: January 16, 2020

Rick Douglas Husband, astronaut, pilot, U. S. Air Force colonel, and Flight Commander of STS-107 Columbia, was born on July 12, 1957, in Amarillo, Texas, to Douglas Earl Husband and Jane Virginia (Barbagallo) Husband. His father was a Naval pilot in the Korean War and was noted as inspiring Rick and his brother Keith to become aviators; Rick’s brother Keith grew up to be a commercial airline pilot. From at least the age of four, Rick always wanted to be an astronaut. He grew up watching the moon landings and referred to those events as being the motivating factors to become an astronaut. He went to Amarillo High School, and just after graduation in 1975, Husband got his pilot’s license at Tradewind Airport. He enrolled at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where he majored in mechanical engineering and was a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. A member of the university’s ROTC program, he was a member of the undergraduate pilot program and earned a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force upon receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1980.

Husband attended flight school at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma and was then assigned to F-4 flight training at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. While in the U. S. Air Force he logged more than 3,800 flight hours in more than forty different kinds of airplanes and became a flight instructor and test pilot. After being stationed in Florida, Husband was assigned to be a flight and academic F-4 instructor at George Air Force Base in California. In 1987 he was assigned to Edwards Air Force Base in California to attend U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. Upon completion of test pilot school, Husband was a test pilot for the F-4 and all five models of the F-15. He was honored as F-4 Tactical Air Command Instructor Pilot of the Year in 1987. Husband also attended California State University, Fresno, while in the Air Force and earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1990. He served as an exchange pilot in the Royal Air Force in England in 1992 and test flew many of their aircraft still in use in the early twenty-first century.

Husband was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for astronaut training at Johnson Space Center in December 1994; he had applied four times. After completing training, he worked with NASA on safety features for astronauts and the Crew Return Vehicle. He also had a hand in studying the return to the moon project as a safety officer. Husband’s first flight into space was aboard the STS-97 Discovery on which he served as a pilot in 1999. The ten-day mission, which included the very first docking at the International Space Station, also delivered four tons of supplies and equipment for the team that would live on the space station for the next year.

The next mission for Husband was his last, aboard STS-107 Columbia. The mission was designed as a sixteen-day research mission for which Husband was the Shuttle Commander. On February 1, 2003, as the Columbia was attempting reentry at 8:52 am EST, sensors onboard began to register an abnormal increase in temperature; soon other sensors began registering the same problem, indicating that the space shuttle was heating up faster than normal. At 8:58 the shuttle was over New Mexico and showing signs of increased drag. At 8:59 the space shuttle registered a tire pressure sensor malfunction, which alerted the crew and indicated that they were responsive. Shortly after, all communication with the crew was lost, as the space shuttle began disintegrating at Mach 18 at an altitude of more than 200,000 feet over East Texas. The shuttle and all crew members on board were lost (see SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA CRASH).

Rick Husband married Evelyn Neely on February 27, 1982, in Amarillo, Texas, and together they raised two children, Matthew and Laura. He was a devout Presbyterian and attended church with his wife and children as regularly as he could, given the nature of his profession. During the course of his career, he received a number of honors, including the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, and National Defense Service Medal. He was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots as well as the Air Force Association. His wife Evelyn carried on his legacy and wrote about his life in a book titled High Calling: The Courageous Life and Faith of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband (2003). Among his numerous awards, Husband was posthumously given the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. He was buried in Llano Cemetery in Amarillo. The Amarillo airport was renamed the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport in his honor.

Amarillo Globe-News, February 2, 2003. Biographical Data: Rick Douglas Husband, NASA (, accessed December 8, 2016. “Evelyn Husband: Remembering the Columbia Shuttle Tragedy,” CBN (, accessed December 8, 2016. Evelyn Husband and Donna VanLiere, High Calling: The Courageous Life and Faith of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003). “Rick Douglas Husband,” Find A Grave Memorial (, accessed December 8, 2016.

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Joshua D. Tilley, “Husband, Rick Douglas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 08, 2021,

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May 31, 2017
January 16, 2020