Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
Houston, Texas 77058
Clifford first flew on the crew of STS-53 which launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on December 2, 1992, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. The mission carried a Department of Defense payload and a variety of secondary payloads. Clifford was responsible for operating a number of experiments which included the Fluid Acquisition and Resupply Experiment (FARE) and the Battlefield Laser Acquisition Sensor Test (BLAST). FARE was a microgravity fluid transfer experiment designed to evaluate improved spacecraft propellant tanks. BLAST was a hand-held laser energy detector designed to detect and interpret a data message in a low-power Earth-based laser. After completing 115 orbits of the Earth, STS-53 landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on December 9, 1992.
He next served aboard Endeavour on the STS-59 Space Radar Laboratory (SRL) mission which launched April 9, 1994. SRL consisted of three large radars, SIR-C/X-SAR (Shuttle Imaging Radar C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar), and a carbon monoxide sensor that were used to enhance studies of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. The imaging radars operated in three frequencies and four polarizations. This multispectral capability of the radars provided information about the Earth's surface over a wide range of scales not discernible with previous single-frequency experiments. The carbon monoxide sensor (MAPS) used gas filter radiometry to measure the global distribution of CO in the troposphere. Real time crew observations of surface phenomena and climatic conditions augmented with over 14,000 photographs aided investigators in interpretation and calibration of the data. The mission concluded on April 20, 1994, with a landing at Edwards Air Force Base after orbiting the Earth 183 times in 269 hours.
Clifford next served on STS-76, the third docking mission to the Russian space station Mir, which launched on March 22, 1996 with a crew of six aboard Atlantis. Following rendezvous and docking with Mir, transfer of a NASA Astronaut to Mir for a five month stay was accomplished to begin a continuous presence of U.S. astronauts aboard Mir for the next two year period. The crew also transferred 4800 pounds of science and mission hardware, food, water and air to Mir and returned over 1100 pounds of U.S. and ESA science and Russian hardware. Clifford performed a 6-hour spacewalk, the first while docked to an orbiting space station, to mount experiment packages on the Mir docking module to detect and assess debris and contamination in a space station environment. The experiments will be retrieved by a future shuttle mission. This mission was also the first flight of Kidsat, an electronic camera controlled by classroom students via a Ku-bank link between JSC Mission Control and the Shuttle, which uses digitized photography from the Shuttle for science and education. Following 145 orbits of the Earth, Atlantis landed with a crew of five at Edwards Air Force Base in California on March 31, 1996.
Rich Clifford left NASA in January 1997 to accept the position of Space Station Flight Operations Manager for Boeing Defense and Space Group.