(1924-1993), born in Madison on October 9, 1924, grew up to be the second U.S. “winged” astronaut, that is the second to fly higher that 50 miles. A test pilot in the United State Air Force (USAF), he flew the rocket plane known as the X-15, in which he attained an altitude of 54 miles on June 27, 1963.
In August of that year a great three-day celebration and homecoming was held in Madison to honor him with parades and other festivities. His wife, Joyce Butler, was from nearby Norridgewock. Rushworth, president of his High School class for four years, graduated in 1942, attended Hebron Academy for a year, and after active duty with the Air Force, graduated from the University of Maine in 1951 and later from the Air Force Institute of Technology.
He received his pilot wings in 1944 and served in the China-Burma-India area in 1945 at the end of World War II. From 1951 to 1953 he was a jet fighter pilot at Dow Air Force Base in Bangor – now Bangor International Airport.
Rushworth was assigned to Edwards Air Force Base in 1956 where be trained as the alternate USAF test pilot for X-15, which he first flew in 1960 and eventually piloted this fastest and highest flying fixed winged aircraft a record 34 times.
In 1968 was assigned to Vietnam where he flew 189 combat missions in F-4 A/Cs. Upon his return to the United States he was responsible for several major test programs including the F-5, A-10, F-15, YF-16, YF-17, and the B-1 bomber.
Rates as a “command pilot astronaut,” Rushworth accumulated more than 6,900 flying hours in more than 50 different aircraft. His military honors include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with one oak leaf cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal with ten oak leaf clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. He also received NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal.
Major General Rushworth died March 18, 1993.
USAF promotional photos, courtesy Maine State Archives
“Biographical Sketch USAF Major Robert A. Rushworth.” August 3, 1963. Maine Department of Economic Development records. Maine State Archives.
“Robert Rushworth: Astronaut and Test Pilot.” National Aviation Hall of Fame website at http://www.nationalaviation.org/museum_enshrinee.asp?eraid=5&enshrineeid=388, accessed December 6, 2003.