Born on August 1, 1946, in Fayetteville, Ark., Richard O. Covey rose through the Air Force ranks to become a colonel and four-time space shuttle crew member. Raised in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Covey attended the Air Force Academy to earn his bachelor of science in engineering sciences. He later earned a master's in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue.
Covey's first mission was as pilot for Discovery, on STS-51-I. Launching on Aug. 27, 1985, three communications satellites were deployed by the STS-51-I crew -- ASC-1, AUSSAT-1 and SYNCOM IV-4. The SYNCOM satellite failed to function and was retrieved and redeployed by astronauts after a pair of EVAs. Discovery completed the 20th shuttle mission on Sept. 3, 1985.
It was on this first shuttle mission for Covey that he carried an Arkansas state flag patch to salute his birthplace of Fayetteville. The patch and other memorabilia of Covey are on display at the Arkansas Air Museum.
Covey's next mission also was as the pilot for Discovery on STS-26. The mission was the first for the shuttle program since an earlier accident. Launching from KSC on Sept. 29, 1988, Covey piloted Discovery through the deployment of the NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite plus numerous on-board science experiments. The STS-26 mission ended with a landing at Edwards AFB on Oct. 3, 1988.
He stepped up to the role of mission commander with STS-38 during the 1990 shuttle mission roster. Atlantis was the ship, and the mission was a brief, four-day stay in orbit devoted completely to the Department of Defense. Among the publicly known highlights of the mission was the return landing at KSC, which was the first for Atlantis and the first for the shuttle program since April 1985.
However, Covey's greatest shuttle mission by far was his last as he served as the commander of STS-61, the first mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Endeavour lifted off from KSC on Dec. 2, 1993 in a dramatic night launch. The mission proved to be one of the most challenging in the history of the shuttle program as a then-record five back-to-back EVAs were performed by two teams of astronauts to service the HST. A total of 35 hours, 28 minutes, of space walks were made during the 10-day mission. Endeavour returned to KSC on Dec. 13 to end one of the most complex shuttle missions of the program.
After the STS-61 mission, Covey retired from NASA and the astronaut corps to become program director of training and simulation for the government systems group of Unisys Corporation in Houston, Texas.