Not many people have seen the world from the same perspective that Richard Searfoss has. “There are no words to describe the beauty of the planet and the harmony of this place that was created for us,” says Brother Searfoss, pilot of the space shuttle Columbia. “While we were very busy in orbit, I would snatch moments and just gaze out of the window and gather it all in emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The whole mission was professionally rewarding and spiritually humbling.”
And yet Brother Searfoss, a member of the League City Ward, Friendswood Texas Stake, notes, “While seeing the earth from orbit reinforced what I already believed, it didn’t add anything to it. There’s no need for people to go into space to gain a testimony.”
Brother Searfoss, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, joined six others on the 14-day life-science research mission in October 1993, the longest shuttle orbit to date. As pilot, he was one of the primary crew members during the shuttle’s ascent and entry. While in space, he participated in numerous experiments, both as observer and subject. His duties also included earth observation, engineering tests, and navigational exercises.
Crew members worked 16-hour days and had little free time. However, Brother Searfoss fit a few gravity-free somersaults into his evening schedule along with a regular exercise routine assigned by doctors. He also managed to spend a few minutes every day reading scriptures, usually after breakfast. “We were allowed to carry a few personal items,” Brother Searfoss explains. “Most of us carried pictures; I hung the picture of my wife, Julie, and my daughters, Megan and Elizabeth, over my mid-deck locker. I also had a few of my favorite scriptures printed on cards.
“There were reverent moments up there,” he continues, “moments when my spirit was open to more important things than just day-to-day concerns.”
Brother Searfoss is already anticipating his future assignments. “I’m a career astronaut,” he notes. “I’m looking forward to being up there again.”