Space Shuttle astronaut Colonel Rick Husband had a personal connection to Mesa Airlines through his brother, Keith, a captain based in Roswell, NM in the Beechcraft C-99 and BE1900 aircraft in the early days of Mesa. Keith was a funny guy who was known for playing pranks and blasting out The Jetson’s theme music over company radio frequency on early morning flights. Keith later went to work for America West Airlines and, after two mergers, is currently an Airbus A320 captain for American Airlines.
Rick Husband graduated from the US Air Force test pilot school at Edwards AFB and served as a test pilot on the F4 Phantom and all five models of the F-15. He later was an exchange test pilot with the Royal Air force and flew several of the RAF fighter jets. During his air force career, Rick logged over 3,800 flight hours in 40 different airplane models.
He was selected to be an astronaut candidate in December 1994. He served as the pilot on Mission STS-96 (Discovery) and was part of the first crew to enter the International Space Station. Later, he was chosen as the crew Commander on Mission STS-107 (Columbia). During Columbia’s liftoff on January 16, 2003, a piece of insulating foam separated from the external fuel tank and struck the underside of the wing causing undetected damage to the heat tiles. As the mission wrapped up and upon reentry into the atmosphere on February 1, 2003, hot plasma gas made its way into the wing via the damaged area where heat tiles had separated and melted the aluminum inner structure of the wing. This caused the shuttle to come apart and disintegrate over the state of Texas. All seven members of Rick’s crew were tragically killed. After the 1986 Challenger explosion on liftoff, Columbia was the second tragedy to shake the shuttle program to its core.
Rick received several post-mortem honors, including the renaming of his hometown airport to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport and receiving posthumously the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. His brother, Keith provided a great photograph of the two brothers together at a send-off party at the Kennedy Space Center only 36-hours prior to the mission lift-off. This post also includes two photos of brother Keith – the first when he was a first officer at Mesa next to a Beech C-99 and more recently, with American Airlines next to his Airbus. Thank you to Rick Husband for his service to our country.