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Astronaut Candidates 2004: | Home
Behind the ScenesAstronaut Candidate Class of 2004 Behind the ScenesTrainingSonny Carter Training Facility
Tom Marshburn
IMAGE: Astronaut Candidate Tom Marshburn
2004 Astronaut Candidate Tom Marshburn is a flight surgeon at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Astronaut Candidate Interview:
Thomas Marshburn

Q: Tom Marshburn, mission specialist candidate. Congratulations.

A: Thank you very much.

Tell me what it was like when you got the news that you had been picked to start training as an astronaut.

I was stunned. After Col. Bob Cabana gave me the phone call and told me I had been selected, I don't remember much else of the phone call. But he told me I had some numbers to write down, so I could understand where to start training and asked me if I was ready for that. I said yes, sir. He asked me if I had a pen and paper handy, and I said yes, sir. And he asked me if my hands were shaking, and I said yes, sir. And it was a wonderful thing.

Getting this opportunity to become an astronaut, I think, is probably a pretty vivid realization of your fascination with journeys and seeing new places. Tell me about some of those exploration experiences and how you think they may have led you into medicine and flight surgeon, and now astronaut.

I've always been fascinated with the outdoors. My universe, when I was a child, was our farm in north Georgia, but it expanded to the Appalachian Mountains where I did a lot of backpacking. And I fell in love with the mountains of the U.S. in general, and I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, a six-month backpacking trip from Canada to Mexico. I got to explore my own limits quite a bit during that trip.

And in becoming a physician, I think was a matter of just taking what I thought I could do best. I had always been interested in the space program -- since I was in elementary school, actually. And I thought maybe if I have any talents in medicine, maybe this could be applied to space flight. It was always manned space flight I was interested in, human space flight. Being able to take care of people might be a way I could contribute.

You know you and your astronaut classmates should be on the missions that are going to bring the vision for space exploration to life. You folks are going to be the ones who are going to go to the moon and after that, you know, who knows where. What's your philosophy about the future of humankind moving out into the cosmos? And the role that you're going to get to play in that?

Any role I get to play is a real privilege. We'll be training for a long time. We're going to be supporting a lot of other missions. I'm very, very excited about that. I feel that getting out beyond lower Earth orbit is a step towards human survival, as a matter of fact. It may not be this century or even this millennium, but these are the first steps, and we're going to have to take them some day. I'm very excited to find out what we're going to discover.

NASA has an important role to play in supporting and promoting education. Tell me what you want to tell young people about the role of education and science and math in the challenging work of space flight and becoming an astronaut.

Well, it's all one big picture. Some of these projects take generations to accomplish. And it's absolutely essential that those that are in school right now develop the techniques that they need to know and learn the things they need to support, maybe some astronauts today when they fly, actually, but also to fly themselves and to take over the programs and to make the decisions that need to be made.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/15/2005
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