Astronaut to be first LDS commander of space shuttle

When the Space Shuttle Columbia launches, Astronaut Richard A. Searfoss will become the first Church member ever to command a NASA space craft.

Brother Searfoss, a member of the South Shore Ward, Friendswood Texas Stake, was scheduled to take off April 16, but the launch was postponed when a data processor failed. The space shuttle was rescheduled to be launched April 17, and is to remain in space 15 days, 21 hours and 50 minutes.The mission, STS-90, is Brother Searfoss' third experience in space. Selected by NASA in January 1990, Brother Searfoss became an astronaut in July 1991. He served as pilot aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1993 and aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1996.

Several members of Brother Searfoss' stake - including his bishop and stake president - traveled to Florida to watch his third leap into space. Many members of his family also made the trip. "We are always glad when he gets back," said his mother-in-law, Coreen McGuire.

During the two-week flight, Brother Searfoss and his crew will conduct life-sciences research on the nervous system.

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