Tufts University

Frederick H. "Rick" Hauck

Former NASA astronaut, 1962 graduate and Trustee Emeritus of Tufts

[ Biography | Honorary Degree ]

Commencement 2007

Few people reach the top of Mount Everest. Even fewer get the opportunity to look down on the summit from above, the mighty peak but a pinprick among the craggy mountaintops of the Himalayas. Frederick H. "Rick" Hauck, A62, is among those fortunate few.

As the veteran of three space shuttle missions, Hauck has not only observed the Earth from a distinctive vantage point, he has helped expand our scientific horizons. In short, he has helped make history.

And it all started, he says, at Tufts. "From the ages of 17 to 21, I was shaped by Tufts," he said during an appearance on campus in November 2006. "It was my home." Hauck majored in physics, but also explored the social sciences and humanities, listing international relations courses and Shakespeare among his favorites.

Hauck was in the Navy ROTC program, and after graduation, he served for two years on the USS Warrington, a destroyer. He was selected for the Navy's Advanced Science Program, and went on to earn a master's degree in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then he became a Navy pilot and realized flight was his true passion.

"I found I loved flying, and I couldn't believe how fortunate I was, being paid to do something I loved so much," he said.

Hauck flew 114 combat and combat-support missions in Southeast Asia and then was a test pilot for most of the Navy's carrier-based aircraft. In 1978 he joined the NASA astronaut corps, and in 1983, he piloted the space shuttle Challenger—making the trip with fellow space rookie Sally Ride, the first American woman astronaut. His second shuttle flight was on Discovery in 1984. It was NASA's first space salvage mission, and two stranded communications satellites were recovered.

He was tapped to be the commander of his third shuttle flight, again on the Challenger, scheduled for April 1986. That flight never took place. In January 1986, the Challenger exploded seconds after liftoff, bringing the shuttle program to a temporary halt as NASA launched an extensive investigation and initiated a major overhaul of the remaining fleet.

Hauck returned to space on September 29, 1988, commanding the crew of the redesigned Discovery, the first shuttle flight to follow the Challenger tragedy. "I was very honored to be asked to do that," he said. "Was I scared?" he asked, referring to the question he is most often asked about that flight. "I'm proud to say, ‘yes.' " Paraphrasing fellow astronaut John Young, Hauck said, "if someone's not afraid of launching in a rocket, they're either lying, or they don't understand what they're about to do."

After leaving NASA in 1989, Hauck became director of Navy Space Systems at the Pentagon. He retired from the Navy in 1991, and became president of AXA Space, a division of a French insurance company. He retired from AXA in 2005.

Currently, he is a member of the advisory councils for NASA and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, and a board member of the U.S. Space Foundation and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. He has been inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and has been awarded two Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He is married to Susan Bruce, J65, and is the father of Stephen Hauck, A87, and stepfather of Betsy Thompson, J92. He served as a Tufts University trustee from 1988 to 2002, including five years as chair of the Arts and Sciences Board of Overseers, and is a trustee emeritus.

Hauck will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

This story originally ran on May 20, 2007.