High Calling: The Courageous Life and Faith of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband

( 5 )

Overview

Rick Husband wanted to be an astronaut since his fourth birthday, but it wasn't always for the right reasons. Initially, he thought it would be neat . . . cool . . . a fun thing to do. It wasn't until he came to a spiritual crossroads and was able to give that dream up to discover the true desires of his heart before he actually got into the space shuttle program at NASA. Three failed attempts didn't daunt this driven pilot—and the fourth interview process, though lengthy and ...

See more details below
Paperback
$10.98
BN.com price
(Save 15%)$12.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (30) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $4.04   
  • Used (18) from $1.99   
High Calling: The Courageous Life and Faith of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$7.99
BN.com price

Overview

Rick Husband wanted to be an astronaut since his fourth birthday, but it wasn't always for the right reasons. Initially, he thought it would be neat . . . cool . . . a fun thing to do. It wasn't until he came to a spiritual crossroads and was able to give that dream up to discover the true desires of his heart before he actually got into the space shuttle program at NASA. Three failed attempts didn't daunt this driven pilot—and the fourth interview process, though lengthy and difficult, proved successful for him.

Husband's years at NASA served not only to develop his integrity and character, but also to increase his faith in a Creator that could not be denied in the vastness of space. His story is not only inspirational but exhilarating and invigorating, as readers will witness the life of a man who consistently pursued the desires of his heart even as he served a faithful God.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this memoir, Evelyn Husband describes how her husband, Rick, commander of the ill-fated space shuttle Columbia, grew up longing to be an astronaut; how his dream came true; and how it ended with his death in Columbia's explosion in February 2003. At its best, this account (co-written with popular novelist VanLiere, of The Christmas Shoes) puts a human a face on the space program, particularly the sacrifice required to become an astronaut. Details about NASA, quotes from Rick's journal, and interviews with those who knew him add depth. But this is at its heart a story of Christian faith; as Rick's career developed, he grew from a nominal believer into one who would write, in the last day of his journal, "Lord-I want to do Your will and I want to be a godly man." Evelyn details Rick's virtues, but does not sufficiently explain his faults; for example, she reveals that he told her something about himself fairly early in their marriage that shook her up badly, but she doesn't even hint at what it is. It's tough for readers to appreciate his redemption without knowing his sin. A Columbia teamwork-building exercise weighs the story down; the final chapters also need trimming. But scenes of Evelyn and her children (ages 12 and 7) learning of Rick's death, and relying on God help them cope with it, radiate honesty and power. This kind of specificity helps the memoir rise above the level of hagiography. (Jan. 13) Forecast: This book will receive major media attention, with confirmed appearances and articles planned for The Today Show, People, Guideposts, Focus on the Family (radio and magazine), Decision magazine, Today's Christian Woman and others. Evelyn Husband will also be a featured speaker for the 2004 Women of Faith tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780785260684
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/4/2004
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 783,703
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Evelyn Husband is the wife of Rick Husband, commander of the ill-fated Columbia Space Shuttle that went down on February 1, 2003. She is the mother of two children.

Donna VanLiere is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope books and Angels of Morgan Hill.She lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband and three children.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Faith doesn't give us the power to change

things-it gives us the ability to cope with

the tough things that come our way.

-From Rick's journal

On Saturday morning, February 1, 2003, I watched the sun come up over the ocean in Florida. It was a beautiful, huge orange ball of fire. I stood on the balcony of our hotel room and said, "Rick is finally coming home today!" My husband, Rick, was the commander of the space shuttle Columbia. He and the six other STS-107 crew members left on January 16 for a sixteen-day mission to space.

I was filled with absolute joy on February 1 because the mission was finished and Rick was coming back. I watched the sunrise, which is unusual for me. I am not a morning person, and neither are my children-Laura, twelve, and Matthew, seven. I can count on one hand the number of sunrises I have watched in my lifetime. But that morning, I watched it and was amazed at its beauty; it was spectacular. I thanked God that everything had gone so well for Rick and his crew. When fog started to roll over the ocean, I became concerned. I knew that if it didn't lift, the landing would have to be rescheduled. I prayed that God would lift the fog so Rick and the crew could make a safe landing, the kind Rick had trained and prayed for from the beginning.

At six o'clock I woke Laura so she could experience part of the sunrise. She went out onto the balcony, and I watched her silhouette against the sky. She was so pretty and innocent. I walked next to her and put my arm around her. "Laura, you're going to remember this sunrise for the rest of your life," I said. While I made her something to eat, she began to watch her last devotional video from Rick. About a week prior to the crew's quarantine, Rick told me he wanted to record videotapes for Laura and Matthew.

"I want to make a videotape for Laura and one for Matthew that they can watch each day I'm in orbit," he said. "I want the children to know how much I love them and that I'll be thinking about them every day."

Rick wanted to give the kids something that would show his love for them, but a toy or game just wasn't good enough-a toy couldn't express the depth of Rick's love for his children. What he prized more than anything was time with his family, so he wanted to spend "time" with the kids while he was in space, and he wanted to make that time worthwhile for them. Rick couldn't think of anything better than telling them about the God he desperately loved. God wasn't the "man upstairs" to Rick; He was Lord of his life. Jesus wasn't a kind character with good morals out of a book; He was the Son of God who loved Rick so much that He left heaven to live on earth for thirty-three years before dying on the cross for him. Jesus wasn't a fictitious character; He was real to Rick. Rick wanted more than anything on earth for his children to have a relationship with Him that was real.

We figured that prior to the launch, once he was in quarantine, he could work on the tapes. "I can at least talk to them over the videotape and let them know that I'm praying for them and thinking of them," he said. It was a familiar habit with Laura and Matthew for Rick to pray with them every night before going to bed, so this was his way of still praying with them every day.

Laura watched her video devotional while I woke Matthew. "Hi, Sweetie Pie," Rick said on the tape. "It's landing day, and hopefully, if the weather's good, I'll be landing today in Florida. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing you and Matthew and Mama very much."

Rick read from Laura's devotional book, and when he finished, he prayed for her: "Lord, thank You for bringing us to this point in the journey that our family has taken toward this mission. I pray that You'll be with us in the shuttle and help us to have a great entry and landing today. We look forward to being back together as a family again." Rick looked into the camera and smiled. "Okay, Laura, it won't be long before I get to see you! I love you very, very much . . . I'm looking forward to seeing you and Mama and Matthew. I'll see you in just a little while! I love you. Bye-bye!"

I prepared Matthew's breakfast as he watched his last devotional. When he was finished, I turned off the TV and put both videotapes inside the entertainment cabinet so I'd know where to find them when we packed our things to head back to Houston. The days had dwindled down to this, and Laura, Matthew, and I could barely contain our excitement about watching the landing. Daddy was coming home! I looked out the window and noticed the ground fog hadn't lifted. I prayed again that God would lift the fog so the crew could have a safe landing.

At 7:00 A.M. eastern standard time (EST), Rick and the crew finished the last of the systems checks and confirmed that the Columbia was in the correct position for entry. Steve Lindsey picked us up about 8:00 A.M. to take us to the landing site. Rick met Steve in his astronaut candidate class in 1995. Steve is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and he and Rick were two of the ten pilots accepted by NASA for astronaut training that year. Each crew selects astronaut escorts who help with all the logistics of both launch and landing days, and our escorts were Steve, Scott Parazynski, Clay Anderson, and Terry Virts. Usually, each crew selects two escorts (Rick was family escort for two of Steve's three flights and for two of Scott's four missions), but because security was especially tight for STS-107 with the first Israeli astronaut on board, the crew's families had a total of four escorts. Rick named Steve our lead escort and also designated him as CACO (Casualty Assistance Calls Officer) for our family, which meant Steve would take on a heavy burden of responsibility in case of tragedy. In such an instance, a CACO's duties would be long and complex and include acting as liaison between NASA and the suffering family, screening all media inquiries, assisting with mortuary affairs, and helping with legal and financial needs. Seventeen years after the shuttle Challenger exploded, some CACOs are still assisting crew family members because the job never ends.

We needed to be at Kennedy Space Center thirty minutes before landing. The shuttle was scheduled to land at 9:15 A.M. (EST). I looked down at my watch: we had only another hour and fifteen minutes before Rick was home. I shuffled Laura and Matthew into the car and opened my mouth to ask Steve how concerned I should be about the ground fog, but he was already on his cell phone to see if the weather was clear for landing.

At 8:15 A.M. EST, when Rick and the crew were over the Indian Ocean at an altitude of 150 miles, Mission Control gave Rick and Willie McCool, the Columbia's pilot, approval for what is called the deorbit burn. At that time, the shuttle was flying upside down and backward, but because of weightlessness in space, all altitudes "feel" the same-there is no feeling of being up or down. Rick and Willie fired off the two six-thousand-pound thrust orbital maneuvering rocket engines to slow the shuttle for descent as it entered the earth's atmosphere, and then the shuttle's computers slowly moved the Columbia around into a nose-up position. It was ready for entry.

This part of entry is somewhat difficult because the shuttle needs to reach the landing site with sufficient energy, so altitude and airspeed are crucial for keeping the shuttle on trajectory. As the vehicle hits the atmosphere, a tremendous amount of friction is generated-more friction and heat are created as the shuttle descends at a steep angle. Energy is controlled by banking the shuttle, but that turns the vehicle away from the landing site, so then the bank angle must be reversed. From the ground, it looks as if the shuttle is making a series of S turns. Rick and Willie had to constantly monitor deceleration, temperature, hydraulics, and other systems to make sure the shuttle was flying on course and approaching the landing area at just the right angle.

The viewing area near the landing site is divided into sections at Kennedy Space Center: there are bleachers for the crew families and their invited guests in one section, NASA officials sit in one section, and general spectators are in yet another section. I was able to walk back and forth and visit with Rick's mom, Jane; his brother, Keith; Keith's fiancée, Kathy; and many of our invited guests. I was in such a joyful mood that morning that I was very social, talking and laughing with all our guests as we waited for the shuttle.

Laura and Matthew were playing in a grassy area that faced the runway with the other crew children, chasing each other and laughing. The fog had lifted and the sun was shining. Though it was a bit cold, it was an absolutely beautiful day, just perfect for landing. There was a party atmosphere within the stands. Everyone was celebrating a very successful mission.

NASA has never had a bad landing; the only disaster has been the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, which occurred seventy-three seconds after liftoff. No one at Mission Control in Houston or on board the Columbia was nervous or worried that day; no one had any reason to believe that this entry would be any different from the previous 112 shuttle flights (27 of them made by the Columbia). Everything was going as expected.

"It was picture perfect, all the way through," Steve Lindsey says. "Nobody really thinks about landing as a dangerous time, even though we know it is, but nobody thinks about it because everybody has Challenger in their heads, which was launch."

Inside the orbiter, the crew on the flight deck-Rick, Willie, Laurel Clark, and Kalpana Chawla (K. C.)-were videotaping their last minutes aboard the Columbia, just prior to the scheduled landing. Their conversation was easygoing and light. Around 8:43 A.M. EST the crew prepared to enter the earth's atmosphere. "Two minutes to entry interface," Rick said on the video.

At 8:45 A.M. the Columbia penetrated the outer fringes of the earth's atmosphere just north of Hawaii, at an altitude of 400,000 feet. Close to two minutes later, Laurel had the video camera and was pointing it at K. C.

LAUREL: K. C., can you look at the camera for a sec? Look at me.

K. C.: Can you see me?

LAUREL: Yep.

K. C. waved at the camera, and it was evident in all their voices that the members of the crew were excited about coming home. In the background at Kennedy Space Center, I could hear Mission Control talking with the shuttle, but I wasn't paying attention to anything that was being said. As far as I was concerned, it was just background noise. I grabbed my cell phone and called my parents, Dan and Jean Neely, in Amarillo.

"Are you watching, Daddy?" I asked. "Rick's just a few minutes from landing now."

"We've got the TV on, Darlin'," he said, sharing my excitement. I hung up the phone and walked over to Steve Lindsey and asked him exactly what to expect for the landing. It had been four years since Rick's previous flight with STS-96 on board the shuttle Discovery so I couldn't remember everything that was going to take place.

"About a minute out, you'll hear the sonic boom," Steve said, "then they'll be coming in from the west." He told me some of the calls Rick would be making to Mission Control when they were close to landing and said those calls would be coming in soon.

Meanwhile, inside the orbiter, Laurel was pointing the camera toward the overhead window, recording the plasma that was burning as the orbiter entered the earth's atmosphere, turning from orange to pink. The crew on the flight deck looked out the windows in amazement at what was happening.

LAUREL: Tell me when there's good stuff out front. I'm filming the overhead now.

WILLIE: Starting to glow a little bit more now, Laurel.

RICK: Yep.

LAUREL: Okay.

WILLIE: Can you see over my shoulder, Laurel?

LAUREL: I was filming it. It doesn't show up nearly as much as the back.

WILLIE: It's glowing pretty good now. Ilan, it's really neat. It's a bright orange yellow out over the nose, all around the nose.

There was no trace of uncertainty in anyone's voice and absolutely no fear. They were minutes from home. Willie looked out over the nose of the orbiter.

RICK: Wait till you start seeing the swirl patterns out your left or right windows.

WILLIE: Wow.

RICK: Looks like a blast furnace. Let's see here. Look at that.

WILLIE: This is amazing. It's really getting fairly bright out there.

RICK: You definitely don't want to be outside now.

At that point, the crew saw a pink glow from the windows as the atmospheric friction heated the 25,000-plus protective tiles on the shuttle to nearly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As the shuttle descended, the glow went from pink to red to searing white, normal for every shuttle entry. So far, Mission Control was pleased; there was no reason to anticipate any problems. The biggest concern that day had been the fog, but it had lifted, paving the way for a smooth landing.

At 8:53 A.M., as the Columbia flew over San Francisco, data on various monitors at Mission Control in Houston began to indicate vehicle problems. Some hydraulic systems temperature sensors in the shuttle's left wing were indicating unusual temperature changes. Occasional data dropouts occur during entry so the crew wasn't notified, but these dropouts are very short in duration and only temporary. The changes in the Columbia's wing began to cascade.

As Rick and the crew were over Nevada and Utah, the temperature in the left landing gear and brake lining peaked higher than normal. An amateur astronomer videotaped chunks falling from the Columbia. Two minutes later, as the Columbia flew over Arizona, another home video recorded pieces falling from the orbiter, but neither the crew nor Mission Control was aware that anything was breaking off the shuttle. Then, three temperature sensors in the left wing went dead, and the shuttle experienced an increased drag on its left side, something the automatic control systems on board were trying to correct. The Columbia was flying at the equivalent of eighteen times the speed of sound, or approximately 13,200 miles per hour. Rick was now 1,400 miles from landing and sixteen minutes from seeing us again.

As the Columbia flew over Texas at an altitude of 207,000 feet, Jeff Kling, the shuttle's mechanical systems officer, read something on his monitor at Mission Control.

JEFF: We just lost tire pressure on the left outboard and left inboard, both tires.

At 8:59 A.M. EST, Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) Charlie Hobaugh radioed the crew from Mission Control in Houston.

CHARLIE: And Columbia, Houston. We see your tire pressure messages. And we did not copy your last.

RICK: Roger, buh-

It would be the last communication Mission Control had with Rick. Charlie tried to regain contact with the shuttle.

CHARLIE: Columbia, Houston. Comm check.

Mission Control heard static. The seconds were excruciating as Mission Control waited.

CHARLIE: Columbia, Houston. U.H.F. comm check.

Phil Engelauf, a mission operations directorate official, received word from a colleague who had seen the shuttle breaking up over Texas. Phil shared the news with Flight Director LeRoy Cain. The report was staggering. LeRoy immediately called Ground Control over the flight loop, a common audio channel used by the flight director to communicate with Mission Control front room flight controllers.

CAIN: GC, Flight. [No response. Cain called again.] GC, Flight.

GROUND CONTROL: Flight, GC.

CAIN: Lock the doors.

GROUND CONTROL: Copy.

CAIN: No data, no phone calls, no transmissions anywhere, into or out.

The reality of what was happening was setting in at Mission Control, but at Kennedy Space Center, as we anticipated the landing, I had no idea what was going on.

In Amarillo, my parents were quiet as they watched the images on their TV screen. Several bright streaks filled the sky, and when Daddy saw them, his heart sank. CNN was broadcasting that contact had been lost with the shuttle. He turned off the TV.

"Something was wrong with the camera," Mother said, desperately wanting to believe that what they were seeing was a technical error. "The camera was out of focus."

Daddy felt nauseous. "It's not the camera, Jean," he said. "Something's terribly wrong."

Within moments, the doorbell rang. Mother answered it.

"I'm so sorry, Jean," a friend said, grabbing Mother's hand. It was then that Mother knew the camera wasn't out of focus.

When the shuttle was eleven minutes from landing, Matthew, Laura, and I stood for a picture in front of the huge landing clock at Kennedy Space Center, and our faces revealed how excited we were. As far as we knew, Rick was just minutes away. I wasn't aware at the time but found out later that some of the other crew spouses had started listening to communication between Mission Control and the shuttle and knew something was wrong. Steve Lindsey realized it when he heard the dialogue at Mission Control and the attempts to repeatedly contact Rick.

"About the third time I heard them call, the hair started standing up on the back of my neck," Steve says. "It's common to lose transmission for ten seconds or twenty seconds, but not a long time. It was a terrible, sickening feeling."

Although Steve had just told me minutes earlier which direction I should be looking for the shuttle, I had forgotten. When the shuttle was still about a minute out, I asked again: "I'm sorry, Steve. Which direction did you say I should be looking?"

He was listening to Mission Control and held up his finger as if to say, "Wait a minute." Then I saw the color drain out of his face. He couldn't answer.

I saw movement in the corner of my eye and slowly looked to my left. NASA executives and personnel were pouring out of their bleacher seats with cell phones to their ears. My stomach dropped. I could feel my heart beating, but my body was numb. Something was wrong. Oh, God, what's happening?

From that moment on, everything moved in slow motion, even my brain. I couldn't think straight. I looked for Laura and Matthew and saw they were still playing with the other crew children. I looked to my right and saw Keith standing beside Jane. His face was ashen. He had been listening to the communication between Mission Control and the shuttle and had already suspected that something terrible had happened. I moved toward him, but it was difficult to lift my legs; my body wasn't working.

"Keith, I think something's wrong," I whispered.

"I think there is too," he said.

I tried to process what was taking place. There was no way this was happening. This was Rick's dream. It couldn't be ending. Not today. Not like this.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Contents

1. Coming Home, 1,
2. Dreams of Space, 10,
3. Desert Times, 29,
4. Leap of Faith, 48,
5. NASA at Last, 69,
6. Reaching the Stars, 79,
7. Man with a Mission, 94,
8. The Columbia and Her Final Crew, 104,
9. Climbing Mountains, 111,
10. Launch Slips, Lice, and Blessings in Between, 126,
11. Ready to Fly, 139,
12. The Final Flight, 150,
13. The Longest Day, 167,
14. A World Without Rick, 184,
15. Steps of Faith, 205,
Epilogue, 225,
About the Author, 234,

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Faith doesn't give us the power to change
things--it gives us the ability to cope with
the tough things that come our way
.
--From Rick's journal

On Saturday morning, February 1, 2003, I watched the sun come up over the ocean in Florida. It was a beautiful, huge orange ball of fire. I stood on the balcony of our hotel room and said, "Rick is finally coming home today!" My husband, Rick, was the commander of the space shuttle Columbia. He and the six other STS-107 crew members left on January 16 for a sixteen-day mission to space.

I was filled with absolute joy on February 1 because the mission was finished and Rick was coming back. I watched the sunrise, which is unusual for me. I am not a morning person, and neither are my children--Laura, twelve, and Matthew, seven. I can count on one hand the number of sunrises I have watched in my lifetime. But that morning, I watched it and was amazed at its beauty; it was spectacular. I thanked God that everything had gone so well for Rick and his crew. When fog started to roll over the ocean, I became concerned. I knew that if it didn't lift, the landing would have to be rescheduled. I prayed that God would lift the fog so Rick and the crew could make a safe landing, the kind Rick had trained and prayed for from the beginning.

At six o'clock I woke Laura so she could experience part of the sunrise. She went out onto the balcony, and I watched her silhouette against the sky. She was so pretty and innocent. I walked next to her and put my arm around her. "Laura, you're going to remember this sunrise for the rest of your life," I said.While I made her something to eat, she began to watch her last devotional video from Rick. About a week prior to the crew's quarantine, Rick told me he wanted to record videotapes for Laura and Matthew.

"I want to make a videotape for Laura and one for Matthew that they can watch each day I'm in orbit," he said. "I want the children to know how much I love them and that I'll be thinking about them every day."

Rick wanted to give the kids something that would show his love for them, but a toy or game just wasn't good enough--a toy couldn't express the depth of Rick's love for his children. What he prized more than anything was time with his family, so he wanted to spend "time" with the kids while he was in space, and he wanted to make that time worthwhile for them. Rick couldn't think of anything better than telling them about the God he desperately loved. God wasn't the "man upstairs" to Rick; He was Lord of his life. Jesus wasn't a kind character with good morals out of a book; He was the Son of God who loved Rick so much that He left heaven to live on earth for thirty-three years before dying on the cross for him. Jesus wasn't a fictitious character; He was real to Rick. Rick wanted more than anything on earth for his children to have a relationship with Him that was real.

We figured that prior to the launch, once he was in quarantine, he could work on the tapes. "I can at least talk to them over the videotape and let them know that I'm praying for them and thinking of them," he said. It was a familiar habit with Laura and Matthew for Rick to pray with them every night before going to bed, so this was his way of still praying with them every day.

Laura watched her video devotional while I woke Matthew. "Hi, Sweetie Pie," Rick said on the tape. "It's landing day, and hopefully, if the weather's good, I'll be landing today in Florida. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing you and Matthew and Mama very much."

Rick read from Laura's devotional book, and when he finished, he prayed for her: "Lord, thank You for bringing us to this point in the journey that our family has taken toward this mission. I pray that You'll be with us in the shuttle and help us to have a great entry and landing today. We look forward to being back together as a family again." Rick looked into the camera and smiled. "Okay, Laura, it won't be long before I get to see you! I love you very, very much . . . I'm looking forward to seeing you and Mama and Matthew. I'll see you in just a little while! I love you. Bye-bye!"

I prepared Matthew's breakfast as he watched his last devotional. When he was finished, I turned off the TV and put both videotapes inside the entertainment cabinet so I'd know where to find them when we packed our things to head back to Houston. The days had dwindled down to this, and Laura, Matthew, and I could barely contain our excitement about watching the landing. Daddy was coming home! I looked out the window and noticed the ground fog hadn't lifted. I prayed again that God would lift the fog so the crew could have a safe landing.

At 7:00 A.M. eastern standard time (EST), Rick and the crew finished the last of the systems checks and confirmed that the Columbia was in the correct position for entry. Steve Lindsey picked us up about 8:00 A.M. to take us to the landing site. Rick met Steve in his astronaut candidate class in 1995. Steve is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and he and Rick were two of the ten pilots accepted by NASA for astronaut training that year. Each crew selects astronaut escorts who help with all the logistics of both launch and landing days, and our escorts were Steve, Scott Parazynski, Clay Anderson, and Terry Virts. Usually, each crew selects two escorts (Rick was family escort for two of Steve's three flights and for two of Scott's four missions), but because security was especially tight for STS-107 with the first Israeli astronaut on board, the crew's families had a total of four escorts. Rick named Steve our lead escort and also designated him as CACO (Casualty Assistance Calls Officer) for our family, which meant Steve would take on a heavy burden of responsibility in case of tragedy. In such an instance, a CACO's duties would be long and complex and include acting as liaison between NASA and the suffering family, screening all media inquiries, assisting with mortuary affairs, and helping with legal and financial needs. Seventeen years after the shuttle Challenger exploded, some CACOs are still assisting crew family members because the job never ends.

We needed to be at Kennedy Space Center thirty minutes before landing. The shuttle was scheduled to land at 9:15 A.M. (EST). I looked down at my watch: we had only another hour and fifteen minutes before Rick was home. I shuffled Laura and Matthew into the car and opened my mouth to ask Steve how concerned I should be about the ground fog, but he was already on his cell phone to see if the weather was clear for landing.

At 8:15 A.M. EST, when Rick and the crew were over the Indian Ocean at an altitude of 150 miles, Mission Control gave Rick and Willie McCool, the Columbia's pilot, approval for what is called the deorbit burn. At that time, the shuttle was flying upside down and backward, but because of weightlessness in space, all altitudes "feel" the same--there is no feeling of being up or down. Rick and Willie fired off the two six-thousand-pound thrust orbital maneuvering rocket engines to slow the shuttle for descent as it entered the earth's atmosphere, and then the shuttle's computers slowly moved the Columbia around into a nose-up position. It was ready for entry.

This part of entry is somewhat difficult because the shuttle needs to reach the landing site with sufficient energy, so altitude and airspeed are crucial for keeping the shuttle on trajectory. As the vehicle hits the atmosphere, a tremendous amount of friction is generated--more friction and heat are created as the shuttle descends at a steep angle. Energy is controlled by banking the shuttle, but that turns the vehicle away from the landing site, so then the bank angle must be reversed. From the ground, it looks as if the shuttle is making a series of S turns. Rick and Willie had to constantly monitor deceleration, temperature, hydraulics, and other systems to make sure the shuttle was flying on course and approaching the landing area at just the right angle.

The viewing area near the landing site is divided into sections at Kennedy Space Center: there are bleachers for the crew families and their invited guests in one section, NASA officials sit in one section, and general spectators are in yet another section. I was able to walk back and forth and visit with Rick's mom, Jane; his brother, Keith; Keith's fiancee, Kathy; and many of our invited guests. I was in such a joyful mood that morning that I was very social, talking and laughing with all our guests as we waited for the shuttle.

Laura and Matthew were playing in a grassy area that faced the runway with the other crew children, chasing each other and laughing. The fog had lifted and the sun was shining. Though it was a bit cold, it was an absolutely beautiful day, just perfect for landing. There was a party atmosphere within the stands. Everyone was celebrating a very successful mission.

NASA has never had a bad landing; the only disaster has been the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, which occurred seventy-three seconds after liftoff. No one at Mission Control in Houston or on board the Columbia was nervous or worried that day; no one had any reason to believe that this entry would be any different from the previous 112 shuttle flights (27 of them made by the Columbia). Everything was going as expected.

"It was picture perfect, all the way through," Steve Lindsey says. "Nobody really thinks about landing as a dangerous time, even though we know it is, but nobody thinks about it because everybody has Challenger in their heads, which was launch."

Inside the orbiter, the crew on the flight deck--Rick, Willie, Laurel Clark, and Kalpana Chawla (K. C.)--were videotaping their last minutes aboard the Columbia, just prior to the scheduled landing. Their conversation was easygoing and light. Around 8:43 A.M. EST the crew prepared to enter the earth's atmosphere. "Two minutes to entry interface," Rick said on the video.

At 8:45 A.M. the Columbia penetrated the outer fringes of the earth's atmosphere just north of Hawaii, at an altitude of 400,000 feet. Close to two minutes later, Laurel had the video camera and was pointing it at K. C.

LAUREL: K. C., can you look at the camera for a sec? Look at me.

K. C.: Can you see me?

LAUREL: Yep.

K. C. waved at the camera, and it was evident in all their voices that the members of the crew were excited about coming home. In the background at Kennedy Space Center, I could hear Mission Control talking with the shuttle, but I wasn't paying attention to anything that was being said. As far as I was concerned, it was just background noise. I grabbed my cell phone and called my parents, Dan and Jean Neely, in Amarillo.

"Are you watching, Daddy?" I asked. "Rick's just a few minutes from landing now."

"We've got the TV on, Darlin'," he said, sharing my excitement. I hung up the phone and walked over to Steve Lindsey and asked him exactly what to expect for the landing. It had been four years since Rick's previous flight with STS-96 on board the shuttle Discovery so I couldn't remember everything that was going to take place.

"About a minute out, you'll hear the sonic boom," Steve said, "then they'll be coming in from the west." He told me some of the calls Rick would be making to Mission Control when they were close to landing and said those calls would be coming in soon.

Meanwhile, inside the orbiter, Laurel was pointing the camera toward the overhead window, recording the plasma that was burning as the orbiter entered the earth's atmosphere, turning from orange to pink. The crew on the flight deck looked out the windows in amazement at what was happening.

LAUREL: Tell me when there's good stuff out front. I'm filming the overhead now.

WILLIE: Starting to glow a little bit more now, Laurel.

RICK: Yep.

LAUREL: Okay.

WILLIE: Can you see over my shoulder, Laurel?

LAUREL: I was filming it. It doesn't show up nearly as much as the back.

WILLIE: It's glowing pretty good now. Ilan, it's really neat. It's a bright orange yellow out over the nose, all around the nose.

There was no trace of uncertainty in anyone's voice and absolutely no fear. They were minutes from home. Willie looked out over the nose of the orbiter.

RICK: Wait till you start seeing the swirl patterns out your left or right windows.

WILLIE: Wow.

RICK: Looks like a blast furnace. Let's see here. Look at that.

WILLIE: This is amazing. It's really getting fairly bright out there.

RICK: You definitely don't want to be outside now.

At that point, the crew saw a pink glow from the windows as the atmospheric friction heated the 25,000-plus protective tiles on the shuttle to nearly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As the shuttle descended, the glow went from pink to red to searing white, normal for every shuttle entry. So far, Mission Control was pleased; there was no reason to anticipate any problems. The biggest concern that day had been the fog, but it had lifted, paving the way for a smooth landing.

At 8:53 A.M., as the Columbia flew over San Francisco, data on various monitors at Mission Control in Houston began to indicate vehicle problems. Some hydraulic systems temperature sensors in the shuttle's left wing were indicating unusual temperature changes. Occasional data dropouts occur during entry so the crew wasn't notified, but these dropouts are very short in duration and only temporary. The changes in the Columbia's wing began to cascade.

As Rick and the crew were over Nevada and Utah, the temperature in the left landing gear and brake lining peaked higher than normal. An amateur astronomer videotaped chunks falling from the Columbia. Two minutes later, as the Columbia flew over Arizona, another home video recorded pieces falling from the orbiter, but neither the crew nor Mission Control was aware that anything was breaking off the shuttle. Then, three temperature sensors in the left wing went dead, and the shuttle experienced an increased drag on its left side, something the automatic control systems on board were trying to correct. The Columbia was flying at the equivalent of eighteen times the speed of sound, or approximately 13,200 miles per hour. Rick was now 1,400 miles from landing and sixteen minutes from seeing us again.

As the Columbia flew over Texas at an altitude of 207,000 feet, Jeff Kling, the shuttle's mechanical systems officer, read something on his monitor at Mission Control.

JEFF: We just lost tire pressure on the left outboard and left inboard, both tires.

At 8:59 A.M. EST, Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) Charlie Hobaugh radioed the crew from Mission Control in Houston.

CHARLIE: And Columbia, Houston. We see your tire pressure messages. And we did not copy your last.

RICK: Roger, buh-

It would be the last communication Mission Control had with Rick. Charlie tried to regain contact with the shuttle.

CHARLIE: Columbia, Houston. Comm check.

Mission Control heard static. The seconds were excruciating as Mission Control waited.

CHARLIE: Columbia, Houston. U.H.F. comm check.

Phil Engelauf, a mission operations directorate official, received word from a colleague who had seen the shuttle breaking up over Texas. Phil shared the news with Flight Director LeRoy Cain. The report was staggering. LeRoy immediately called Ground Control over the flight loop, a common audio channel used by the flight director to communicate with Mission Control front room flight controllers.

CAIN: GC, Flight. [No response. Cain called again.] GC, Flight.

GROUND CONTROL: Flight, GC.

CAIN: Lock the doors.

GROUND CONTROL: Copy.

CAIN: No data, no phone calls, no transmissions anywhere, into or out.

The reality of what was happening was setting in at Mission Control, but at Kennedy Space Center, as we anticipated the landing, I had no idea what was going on.

In Amarillo, my parents were quiet as they watched the images on their TV screen. Several bright streaks filled the sky, and when Daddy saw them, his heart sank. CNN was broadcasting that contact had been lost with the shuttle. He turned off the TV.

"Something was wrong with the camera," Mother said, desperately wanting to believe that what they were seeing was a technical error. "The camera was out of focus."

Daddy felt nauseous. "It's not the camera, Jean," he said. "Something's terribly wrong."

Within moments, the doorbell rang. Mother answered it.

"I'm so sorry, Jean," a friend said, grabbing Mother's hand. It was then that Mother knew the camera wasn't out of focus.

When the shuttle was eleven minutes from landing, Matthew, Laura, and I stood for a picture in front of the huge landing clock at Kennedy Space Center, and our faces revealed how excited we were. As far as we knew, Rick was just minutes away. I wasn't aware at the time but found out later that some of the other crew spouses had started listening to communication between Mission Control and the shuttle and knew something was wrong. Steve Lindsey realized it when he heard the dialogue at Mission Control and the attempts to repeatedly contact Rick.

"About the third time I heard them call, the hair started standing up on the back of my neck," Steve says. "It's common to lose transmission for ten seconds or twenty seconds, but not a long time. It was a terrible, sickening feeling."

Although Steve had just told me minutes earlier which direction I should be looking for the shuttle, I had forgotten. When the shuttle was still about a minute out, I asked again: "I'm sorry, Steve. Which direction did you say I should be looking?"

He was listening to Mission Control and held up his finger as if to say, "Wait a minute." Then I saw the color drain out of his face. He couldn't answer.

I saw movement in the corner of my eye and slowly looked to my left. NASA executives and personnel were pouring out of their bleacher seats with cell phones to their ears. My stomach dropped. I could feel my heart beating, but my body was numb. Something was wrong. Oh, God, what's happening?

From that moment on, everything moved in slow motion, even my brain. I couldn't think straight. I looked for Laura and Matthew and saw they were still playing with the other crew children. I looked to my right and saw Keith standing beside Jane. His face was ashen. He had been listening to the communication between Mission Control and the shuttle and had already suspected that something terrible had happened. I moved toward him, but it was difficult to lift my legs; my body wasn't working.

"Keith, I think something's wrong," I whispered.

"I think there is too," he said.

I tried to process what was taking place. There was no way this was happening. This was Rick's dream. It couldn't be ending. Not today. Not like this.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2014

    Ardisia || Town Square

    She whistled softly, resting lightly on an iron bench.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2006

    Light in apparent darkness

    In the book High Calling, Evelyn Husband beautifully chronicles the life of her husband, astronaut Rick Husband which includes achieving his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut as well as living a life that glorifies God. Every chapter is heart-felt, beautiful and real...enough to make you cry throughout the entire book! Rick's long and arduous journey to become an astronaut will encourage you to achieve some of your own goals. His humble demeanor and unashamed witness will make you strive to live a life that unites others and glorifies God. I was inspired by the Husband family's love for Christ and each other, their unwaivering faith (admist great sorrow) and most of all their living testamony of what it means to be a Christian. Thank you Evelyn Husband for this tribute to your husband and the crew of the Columbia STS-107.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2006

    Religious book...

    But the book is really religious about God and Jesus helping the Husbands family with their Faith on getting Rick to achieve his dream of being an astronaut. Plus mentions how God helped Evelyn cope being a widow and helping her family too. I feel like this book is too religious on God and not on Rick being an astronaut.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2004

    Have a box of kleenex handy

    I just read this book and cried the entire way through it. This is a story of a family bound by love and faith. It is a story of a husband and wife team and the love they shared has well as the love they showered on their children.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2004

    Warning: A box of tissue is needed beside you at all times

    I am a voracious reader of many different genres of books. Yet, I must say, no book has impacted me quite like this. I saw it in the bookstore, purchased it without a moment's hesitation, and sat down to read it straight through this New Year's Day 2004. My initial reaction to the book is how much the space shuttle Columbia's commander, Rick Husband has inspired me to live well - in my walk with God, in my role as wife and mother, and in seeing God's purpose and gift in each day of my life. Evey's sweetness and generosity is evident as she allows the reader to walk through the most poignant and gut-wrenching aspects of her loss as she shares the events before and after the Columbia's demise. I live in Littleton, Colorado and intend to hike Mt. Columbia this summer in honor of Rick Husbands and all the 'Columbia' crew. I will be lifting their families in prayer all the while.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)