Robert L. Satcher, mission specialist candidate, tell me what it
was like when you got the news that you had been picked to be an
Well, it was a very pleasant surprise. I think the one thing about
the process, and going through the interview process, which is unique,
I think, to interviewing here at NASA, is that you really don't
have any idea of whether or not you're in the final consideration
for being an astronaut. The interview process itself was unlike
anything else I've been through just because of the extent of the
psychological and physical testing. And that I'll always remember.
But after that, you really have no idea whether or not you're making
it into the final selection. I got a phone call. It was a person
from NASA, and they said, "Hey, would you like to come and
work with us?" Obviously, it made my day. It was a wonderful
phone call, and I'm looking forward to the experience.
the group of astronauts, there are a great variety of backgrounds.
You've got your own little variety going. You got two degrees in
chemical engineering at MIT before you then got an M.D. from Harvard.
How does all that interest in one person – how does that all
work to get you here as an astronaut?
I think my
decision to not only get an undergraduate, but a graduate degree
in chemical engineering, plus my decision to go to medical school
and get a medical degree probably stems, first and foremost, from
my interest in education and, in particular, my interest in math
and science. Education was always stressed in our family. Both my
parents were educators. My dad is a chemistry professor and my mother
was an English teacher. Now obviously, these two things have served
me well in terms of allowing me to pursue what I really want to
do. I've been a surgeon in the last few years, along with being
a researcher. Those things -- I think more than anything else --
have given me a sense of being able to do something that is serving
people, and continually being able to educate myself and pursue
education. I think being an astronaut embodies all of those things
better than almost any other occupation I can think of.
know, NASA has got a big role in supporting and promoting education.
What do you tell young people about the role of education and the
role of science and math in the challenging work that is required
for space flight, and to become an astronaut?
I tell young
people that if you're interested in math and science, that it is
something which is vital to a job such as being an astronaut. I
think that learning the fundamental principles are used in everything
that you do. So, the fundamental principles you use in courses like
physics and biology, geology and also mathematics, are things that
you're using when you are, for instance, operating a spacecraft,
or doing experiments on the Space Station, or understanding what
it takes in order to get a craft into space and back to Earth safely.
It's absolutely vital to all of those things. And so, when kids
ask me why they should do well in their math courses and science
courses, I try to give them something they can see put into action
as opposed to leaving it completely abstract.
and your astronaut classmates should be on the missions that are
going to bring the vision for space exploration to life. You guys
are going to go to the moon, and you guys are going to go to Mars.
What is your philosophy about the future of humankind moving out
into the cosmos, and the role you're going to get to play in it?
Well, I guess
first of all, I should say I feel very fortunate to be a part of
it. I think it's something that will benefit everyone. I think we
know of some of the problems that we have here on planet Earth,
and the fact that we are going to be running into a problem in terms
of the resources we have here, and also the tools that we have to
solve the problems that are upon us right now. I think that the
exploration of space is one of those things that brings out the
best in people as a whole and also is extremely beneficial, probably
in many ways that we don't know. We have as examples a lot of the
technology and advances that we've gotten in technology and science
have come unintentionally from exploration and from going out into
the unknown. And that's what this is. I think that it's something
very basic to us as human beings that we want to continue to learn
about ourselves and learn about the universe. And I see it as being
one of the highest honors that one can have to be a part of that.