Space Pioneer: Former NASA Astronaut and Administrator Richard Truly Dies at 86

Astronaut Richard Truly Official NASA Portrait

Official NASA portrait of astronaut Richard H. Truly. Credit: NASA

Richard Truly, a distinguished former NASA Administrator and pioneering astronaut, passed away on February 27, 2024, at the age of 86 in his home in Genesee, Colorado. Truly’s remarkable career spanned several decades, during which he left an indelible mark on the United States Navy and NASA, and by extension, on humanity’s quest to explore space.

Beginning his career in the Navy, Truly exemplified bravery and skill as a test pilot and naval aviator, achieving more than 300 aircraft carrier landings. His transition from the role of ensign to vice admiral showcased his leadership and dedication to service.

Truly’s contributions to space exploration were profound. As an astronaut, he was integral to the Approach and Landing Tests of the space shuttle Enterprise and led missions on the space shuttle Columbia and Challenger, including the first piloted spacecraft to be reflown in space and the first night launch and landing.

Astronaut Richard H. Truly

Astronaut Richard H. Truly. Credit: NASA

Following the Challenger disaster, Truly played a pivotal role in returning NASA to flight, serving as associate administrator and later as NASA administrator. Under his leadership, the iconic “Pale Blue Dot” image of Earth was captured, highlighting his vision for humanity’s place in the universe.

Richard Truly is survived by his wife, Cody, their three children, and a legacy of exploration and leadership that transcends his time on Earth. He was a mentor, a pioneer, and a visionary, whose life’s work significantly advanced our understanding of space and our capacity to explore it. His contributions will continue to inspire future generations to reach for the stars.

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on former NASA Administrator and astronaut Richard Truly, who passed away on February 27, 2024, at his home in Genesee, Colorado, at the age of 86.

“NASA is the place it is today because of people of character, vision, and a spirit of service – people like the great man we lost February 27, former NASA administrator, associate administrator, and astronaut Richard Truly.

“In his decades of service – to the Navy, to NASA, to his country – Richard lifted ever higher humanity’s quest to know the unknown and to achieve the impossible dream.

“Across his 30 years in the Navy, Richard served as a test pilot and naval aviator, making more than 300 aircraft carrier landings. Richard rose from the role of ensign to vice admiral.

“As an astronaut, Richard was part of the crew for the Approach and Landing Tests of the space shuttle Enterprise. He piloted space shuttle Columbia during STS-2, the first piloted spacecraft reflown in space, and commanded the space shuttle Challenger during STS-8 – the first night launch and landing of its era.

“As associate administrator, after the Challenger crisis, Richard brought NASA to its first liftoff and return to flight. He led the Space Shuttle Program to once again take to the skies and reach for the stars. He understood no matter what difficulties we endure, there is only one direction for humanity and NASA: forward.

“As NASA administrator, it also was under Richard’s leadership and judgment that Voyager 1 turned Earthward and took a final picture of our beautiful planet as it floated 3.7 billion miles away. It was the picture that became known as the ‘Pale Blue Dot.’ This is to say that as administrator, Richard’s vision was bold and broad. Humanity is all the better for that vision.

“Woven through these accolades, tests, and triumphs was Richard’s poise as a leader and vision as a pioneer.

“Richard had the makings of someone who understood that we choose to do great things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. He was a personal friend and a mentor to so many of us. I share my deep condolences with Richard’s wife, Cody, and their three children. I invite all those who care for humanity’s quest to reach ever higher to join me in saying farewell to a great public servant.”

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