Richard Clifford, astronaut, dies

Richard CliffordSpace shuttle astronaut Richard “Rich” Clifford, who flew three shuttle missions in the 1990s, dies at the age of 69 from complications related to Parkinson’s Disease. A Lieutenant Colonel when he retired from the U.S. Army in 1995, Clifford had been working at NASA while still with the Army, beginning his involvement with the space program in 1987. He helped to certify crew escape systems in the wake of the Challenger disaster, before moving on to assist in the design of EVA equipment in the early 90s. He flew as a mission specialist on the STS-53, STS-59, and STS-76 missions, accumulating over 600 hours in space, including an EVA lasting six hours at the Mir space station on his final flight. It was before that third mission that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but he kept that diagnosis private until after the mission. He retired from NASA in 1997, but joined Boeing as its Flight Operations Manager from the construction of the International Space Station until the final shuttle mission to the ISS in 2011. He also worked with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which funds research into Parkinson’s.