Married to Rick for almost 21 years; two children, Laura and Matthew
Graduate, Texas Tech, Lubbock
Saturday, February 1, 2003, dawned a beautiful day. It was a historic one for the crew of the space shuttle Columbia, just minutes away from landing at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:15 a.m. EDT. Evelyn and the other crew families were really excited to welcome their loved ones home. At 8:15 a.m. the Columbia penetrated the outer fringes of earths atmosphere north of Hawaii at an altitude of 400,000 feet. At 8:53 a.m. the shuttle was over San Francisco. 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. At a speed of 13,200 miles per hour, Rick and crew were now 1,400 miles from landing and 16 minutes from seeing family again. As the Columbia flew over Texas at 207,000 feet, Houstons Mission Control saw problems with tire pressure and radioed Rick. At 8:59 a.m., Ricks last communication was interrupted -- It was his last. As the staggering reality sank in and TV cameras captured it, Evelyn and the others were left to recover. It was unbelievable news. "From that moment on, everything moved in slow motion, even my brain" says Evelyn. "I couldnt think straight."
Christ as the Center
After seeing John Glenn orbit the earth in 1962, Rick knew at four years old that he wanted to be an astronaut. That desire never wavered. A straight-A student, at 17 he started taking flying lessons. To relieve the workload from his heavy math and science schedule, Rick, who loved singing all his life, joined the choir.
Rick and Evelyn are both from Amarillo and attended the same high school. They both attended Texas Tech where they really met. Their first date was January 28, 1977, and Evelyn knew right away that this guy was special. Rick told her that his dream was to be an astronaut, which she thought was incredible. "He had the drive and the personality to be an astronaut," she says. He had already written to NASA and received a letter stating the qualifications they looked for in pilots and mission specialists, and Rick used that letter as a road map for his future. After completing a mechanical engineering degree, Rick joined the Air Force to become a pilot. He became a test pilot also and eventually learned to fly over 40 airplanes. He and Evelyn married on February 27, 1982, and his career was set.
Though Rick and Evelyn grew up in church, it took a desert experience to bring first Evelyn and then Rick into a close, personal relationship with Christ. Rick was stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California when infertility caused great pain to them. "At the time of our infertility, I really started to dig through the Bible," she says. "I was hurting so much that I searched the Scriptures for comfort." Evelyn miscarried twice in 1989 before the blessed arrival of baby Laura Marie on October 5, 1990. Rick was a hands-on Dad from the moment Laura was born. Their joy was complete when Matthew came on August 3, 1995.
Ricks close walk with the Lord was more gradual. He applied four times before being accepted into NASAs pilot program. He took each rejection as an opportunity to grow in his relationship with the Lord. Rick also had to come to God for His assurance on dealing with some secret things. One area he had to receive forgiveness for was being untruthful about having worn contact lenses on his first NASA application. NASAs vision tests were so rigorous that having worn them could disqualify him. His greatest growth began in England when they were assigned there with the Royal Air Force. A tall Scotsman and RAF pilot named Angus Hogg and his wife, Carole, befriended them. Angus became Ricks spiritual mentor, which helped Rick become a spiritual leader in his home. God knew where they needed to be. "He knew that we needed to be in England for three years, far away from familiar surroundings, family, and friends, in order to grow," Evelyn says. They became students of the Bible, and that changed their lives forever.
Back in the States, the Husbands were active in their church. No matter how demanding or grueling Ricks schedule, his family was always his priority. He said that being an astronaut was always his dream, but if it came at the expense of losing his family, it wasnt worth it. Ricks commitment as a father even caused him to pre-record daily devotions for his children for each day he was in space. As he grew in the Lord, he put God first in his life above all -- even becoming an astronaut. God honored him for that. When Rick told the truth about his eyes on a subsequent application, God blessed him in ways he couldnt fathom. His eyes tested better than 20/20, and out of 3,000 applications and 120 interviews, Rick was selected as one of 19 astronauts. His first successful shuttle mission was on the Discovery in May 1999. It was a dream come true.
Reaching the Stars
Because of Ricks outstanding leadership abilities, he was honored and chosen to be commander for the Columbias next flight. Commanders are usually chosen after having completed two successful missions. This would be the 28th flight of the Columbia; its first was in 1981. The crews flight was the 113th for the shuttle program. The 16-day mission would focus on research in life, space, and physical sciences. The mission was slated for the summer of 2001, giving Rick and crew plenty of time for training. But problems and delays began immediately. "Rick wasnt concerned. He knew the crew would fly when the timing was right," Evelyn says. Looking back, Evelyn is grateful for those extra months with him.
The final crew included Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson, Pilot William C. McCool, Mission Specialist David M. Brown, Payload Special Colonel Ilan Ramon, Mission Specialist Laurel Clark, and Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla.
Each of this elite crew was outstanding in his or her own right. Anderson, a former instructor pilot and tactical officer, was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. Amazingly, Mike and his wife, Sandra, met Rick and Evelyn on the Husbands' first day back in Texas from England. They met at the realtors office and hit if off as friends. "Mike loved his wife and their two girls, Sydney and Kaycee, more than anything," Evelyn says, "and he was a wonderful husband and father." How could they know they would one day be on the same shuttle flight together? McCool was a former Navy test pilot who was married with three boys. Brown was a Navy captain, aviator, and flight surgeon, and the only single person on board. Ramon, a fighter pilot and the first Israeli in space, was a national hero in Israel. He adored his wife and four children. Clark was a Navy captain and naval flight surgeon and was married to a NASA flight surgeon. She adored her son Iain. Chawla, an American from India, was an aerospace engineer and certified flight instructor. She was married and had logged more than 376 hours in space.
Rick counted himself honored to work with such dedicated, humble people. He asked Evelyn for her prayers so that "I will be a good leader because I dont want to let them or NASA or the Lord down." He said God put him in the role of commander for a reason. "I dont want people to see me. I want them to see how God has worked in my life," he said. Ricks greatest desire was that the Lord would be glorified in his life.
The Columbia tragedy thrust Evelyn and the other families into a role they never wanted. Evelyns first concern was for her children, and she was thankful for the routine of taking care of their needs. The NASA family is a close family, and NASA went to extraordinary lengths to take care of them and meet their needs. The national mourning touched them deeply. President and Mrs. Bush showed compassion and concern for them. When at the White House, Evelyn says the President and first lady spent personal time with each and all of them. Since last year, the Lord has been her strength and light in dark times. Evelyn says she "fell into God" through it all.
January 28 marks three significant anniversaries in Evelyn's life:
There have been many honors given to the Columbia crew. Evelyn has been asked to speak in many venues and is thrilled to share Gods faithfulness. But she limits personal appearances, because she first wants to be the best mom she can be to Laura and Matthew. People ask her if she blames God for what happened. She says she doesn't blame God because He has a plan for each persons life. She may not understand it, but she is not bitter because as she says, "God has been too good to me, to Rick, and to our families." She cannot turn her back on Gods faithfulness, provision, and grace. Ricks heart cry was to do Gods will and be a godly man. "As Ricks wife and best friend, I can affirm that his hearts cry to God has been answered in his lifetime," Evelyn says.
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