Francis R. “Dick” Scobee was born on May 19, 1939, in Cle Elum, Washington. After graduating from high school in 1957, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, training as a reciprocating engine mechanic, but longed to fly. In the early 1960s, Scobee married June Kent of San Antonio, Texas, and had two children.
During this time, Scobee took night courses and earned a B.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Arizona in 1965. This made it possible for him to receive and officer’s commission and enter the Air Force pilot training program. He received his pilot’s wings in 1966 and began a series of flying assignments with the Air Force, including a combat tour in Vietnam.
In 1972, Scobee attended the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and participated in several test programs. As an Air Force test pilot, Scobee flew more than 45 types of aircraft, logging more than 6,500 hours of flight time.
In 1978, Scobee entered NASA’s astronaut corps and was the pilot of STS-41-C, the fifth orbital flight of the Challenger shuttle, launching from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on April 6, 1984. During this seven-day mission, the crew successfully retrieved and repaired the ailing Solar Maximum Satellite and returned it to orbit. This was an enormously important mission, because it demonstrated the capability that NASA had long said existed–that a space shuttle could repair satellites in orbit.
In 1986, Scobee was assigned Mission Commander of the fated Challenger STS-51-L mission.
Scobee’s widow, June Scobee Rodgers, Ph.D., was a Founding Director of Challenger Center and continues to serve on the Board of Directors and Advisory Council.