Payload Blog

Remembering Former Astronaut and NASA Administrator Richard H. Truly

Richard H. Truly, former astronaut and NASA administrator, passed away Tuesday, February 27, 2024, at 86. Born November 12, 1937, in Fayette, Mississippi, he attended school in Fayette and Meridian, Mississippi.

Truly graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he attended a Naval ROTC midshipman. In 1959, coinciding with his graduation, he began his career in the U.S. Navy and was commissioned an ensign.

In 1965, Truly became one of the first military astronauts selected to the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory program in Los Angeles, California, before transferring to NASA in 1969. He served as capsule communicator for all three Skylab missions in 1973, and the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975.

Between his time as a naval aviator, test pilot, and astronaut, Truly logged over 75,000 hours in military and civilian jet aircraft. He piloted one of the two astronaut crews that flew the 747/space shuttle Enterprise approach and landing test flights in 1977. Then, he was the backup pilot for STS-1, the first orbital test of the shuttle.

His first space flight was in November 1981, as the pilot of space shuttle Columbia. This flight was a major milestone marking the first piloted spacecraft that was REFLOWN in space. Truly’s second flight was from August through September 1983, when he was commander of the space shuttle Challenger, which marked the first night launch and landing in the Space Shuttle Program.

After serving as the first commander of the Naval Space Command in Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1983, Truly returned to NASA in 1986 as the Associate Administrator for Space Flight, the same year as the Challenger accident. He led the rebuilding of the Space Shuttle Program following the tragedy. Under his leadership, Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in September 1988, marking the first Shuttle mission in nearly three years.

Richard went on to serve as NASA’s eighth Administrator from February 1989 to 1992.

He received several honors during his NASA career including two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, two NASA Exceptional Service Medals, and two NASA Space Flight Medals, plus many more accolades throughout the years.

Richard married Colleen Cody Hanner of Milledgeville, Georgia. They had three children together.

A wreath was placed in his honor inside the rotunda of Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® presented by Boeing®.

See photos of Truly through the years in the gallery below:

Categories: Astronauts, NASA History