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Astronaut Candidates 2004: | Home
Behind the ScenesAstronaut Candidate Class of 2004 Behind the ScenesTrainingSonny Carter Training Facility
Bobby Satcher
IMAGE: Astronaut Candidate Bobby Satcher
2004 Astronaut Candidate Bobby Satcher is a doctor and a professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Astronaut Candidate Interview:
Robert Satcher

Q: 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 astronaut.

A: 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.

Within 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.

You 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.

You 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.

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