Astronaut Dick Scobee, One of the Challenger 7

portrait of Challenger 7

NASA / Handout / Getty Images 

Since the Space Age began, astronauts have risked their lives to further the exploration of space. Among these heroes is the late astronaut Francis Richard "Dick" Scobee, killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986. born on May 19, 1939. He grew up fascinated by airplanes, so after graduating from Auburn High School (Auburn, WA) in 1957, he joined the Air Force. He also attended night school and acquired two years of college credit. This led to his selection for the Airman's Education and Commissioning Program. He received his bachelor of science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona in 1965. Continuing his Air Force career, Scobee received his wings in 1966 and went on to several assignments, including a combat tour in Vietnam, where he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.

Flying Higher

He next attended the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Scobee logged more than 6,000 hours in 45 types of aircraft, including the Boeing 747, the X-24B, the transonic aircraft technology (TACT) F-111 and the C-5.

Dick was quoted as saying, "When you find something you really like to do, and you're willing to risk the consequences of that, you really probably out to go do it." So, when he had the opportunity to apply for a position with NASA's astronaut corps, he jumped at it. He was selected in January 1978 and completed his training and evaluation period in August 1979. Besides his duties as an astronaut, Mr. Scobee was an Instructor Pilot on the NASA/Boeing 747 shuttle carrier airplane.

Beyond the Sky

Scobee first flew into space as pilot of the space shuttle Challenger during STS-41C on April 6, 1984. Crew members included spacecraft commander Captain Robert L. Crippen, and three mission specialists, Mr. Terry J. Hart, Dr. G. D. "Pinky" Nelson, and Dr. J. D. A. "Ox" van Hoften. During this mission, the crew successfully deployed the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), retrieved the ailing Solar Maximum Satellite, repaired the orbiting Challenger on board, and replaced it in orbit using the robot arm called the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), among other tasks. Mission duration was 7 days before landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on April 13, 1984.

That year, NASA honored him with the Space Flight medal and two Distinguished Service awards.

Scobee's Final Flight

The next mission was as spacecraft commander of the shuttle mission STS-51L, also aboard the space shuttle Challenger. That mission launched on January 28, 1986. The crew included the pilot, Commander M. J. Smith (USN) (pilot), three mission specialists, Dr. R. E. McNair, Lieutenant Colonel E. S. Onizuka (USAF), and Dr. J. A. Resnik, as well as two civilian payload specialists, Mr. G. B. Jarvis and Mrs. S. C. McAuliffe. One thing made this mission unique. It was scheduled to be the first flight of a new program called TISP, the Teacher In Space Program. The Challenger crew included mission specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher to fly in space.

The mission itself was delayed due to bad weather and other issues.  Liftoff was initially scheduled at 3:43 p.m. EST on January 22, 1986. It slipped to the 23rd, then to January 24th, due to delays in mission 61-C, and then to January 25th because of bad weather at the transoceanic abort landing (TAL) site in Dakar, Senegal. The next launch date was January 27th, but another technical glitch delayed that one, too. 

The ​space shuttle Challenger finally lifted off at 11:38:00 a.m. EST. Dick Scobee died along with his crew when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds into the mission, the first of two shuttle disasters. He was survived by his wife, June Scobee, and their children, Kathie Scobee Fulgham and Richard Scobee. He was later inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Edited by Carolyn Collins Petersen

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Greene, Nick. "Astronaut Dick Scobee, One of the Challenger 7." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, Greene, Nick. (2020, August 29). Astronaut Dick Scobee, One of the Challenger 7. Retrieved from Greene, Nick. "Astronaut Dick Scobee, One of the Challenger 7." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 25, 2021).

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