Richard Alan Searfoss (born June 5th, 1956), is a retired United States Air Force colonel, NASA Astronaut and test pilot.
After graduating from Portsmouth Senior High School, in 1974, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 1978, and a Masters of Science degree in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology on a National Science Foundation Fellowship in 1979. In the Air Force, he attended Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and Air War College.
Searfoss graduated in 1980 from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona. From 1981-1984, he flew the F-111F operationally at RAF Lakenheath, England, followed by a tour at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, where he was an F-111A instructor pilot and weapons officer until 1987. In 1988 he attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Maryland, as a USAF exchange officer. He was a flight instructor at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, when selected for the astronaut program.
He has logged over 5,000 hours flying time in 56 different types of aircraft and over 939 hours in space. He also holds FAA Airline Transport Pilot, glider, and flight instructor ratings.
Selected by NASA in January 1990, Searfoss became an astronaut in July 1991. Initially assigned to the Astronaut Office Mission Support Branch, Searfoss was part of a team responsible for crew ingress/strap-in prior to launch and crew egress after landing. He was subsequently assigned to flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL). Additionally, he served as the Astronaut Office representative for both flight crew procedures and Shuttle computer software development. He also served as the Astronaut Office Vehicle System and Operations Branch Chief, leading a team of several astronauts and support engineers working on Space Shuttle and International Space Station systems development, rendezvous and landing/rollout operations, and advanced projects initiatives.
Searfoss served as STS-58 pilot on the seven-person life science research mission aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, launching from the Kennedy Space Center on October 18, 1993, and landing at Edwards Air Force Base on November 1, 1993.
Launching March 22, 1996, Searfoss flew his second mission as pilot of STS-76 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. During this 9-day mission the STS-76 crew performed the third docking of an American spacecraft with the Russian space station Mir.
Searfoss commanded a seven person crew on the STS-90 Neurolab mission which launched on April 17, 1998. During the 16-day Spacelab flight the crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments focusing on the effects of microgravity on the brain and nervous system.
A veteran of three space flights, Searfoss logged over 39 days in space. He retired from the Air Force and left NASA in 1998. For the next few years, he continued to work as a contract research test pilot at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.
After leaving NASA, Searfoss served as a judge for the Ansari X-Prize, where he officially declared SpaceShipOne to have won the competition on October 4, 2004 after completing two flights within a two week period.
Searfoss is a test pilot instructor at the National Test Pilot School at the Mojave Spaceport.
Searfoss is one of two test pilots qualified to fly the XCOR Aerospace EZ-Rocket.
Most recently, in 2008, he was a featured guest in a Volkswagen commercial, where he argued with a black Beetle about who has more engineers between Volkswagen and NASA.