Story Musgrave: a Renaissance Man in Space

“So new things are happening, but it’s not going to open a huge door right away. Space is so critical, you have to do it right. You can’t just do it, you know. You can’t just do it to pull it off.”

Story Musgrave is the only NASA astronaut to have flown on all five space shuttles, a feat he achieved over the course of his 30 year career at NASA, during which he completed six space shuttle flights in total, all the while working as a part-time trauma surgeon. Although best known for his career as an astronaut, Musgrave has worked in many different fields and has received six academic degrees. Throughout his time spent in the Marines, at NASA, and as a physician, scientist, and educator, he has always maintained a healthy appetite for knowledge, achievement, and service.

Military Service and Education

Musgrave was born in 1935 on a dairy farm in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. As a boy, he helped his family run the farm, spent lots of time outside, and enjoyed building and repairing things. In 1953, instead of completing high school, he decided to join the Marines. For the next three years he served as an aircraft engine mechanic, plane captain, and crew chief. He received his GED during his time in the Marines, and from 1956 to 1958 studied Mathematics and Statistics at Syracuse University while working for the Marine Corps Reserve on the weekends.

The Marines gave Story Musgrave the foundation he was looking for: “I enlisted in the Marine Corps to expand my horizons: to travel the world and connect with peoples and cultures; to learn new technologies and master new skills and to acquire the discipline, teamwork and mission spirit to get any job done at any cost.” After graduating from Syracuse, Musgrave didn’t let up in his pursuit of education, going on to receive five other degrees in operations analysis and computer programming, chemistry, physiology and biophysics, literature, and his Doctor of Medicine from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Medical Career

The first step in Musgrave’s long medical career was a surgical internship at Story Musgravethe University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington from 1964 to 1965, after which he continued on there for another year, as a post-doctoral fellow in aerospace medicine and physiology. One day, he spotted an article in Science Magazine, where he read that NASA was creating a program for astronauts with extensive scientific education and experience. It was then that Musgrave decided to shift gears and dive into research. From 1966 to 1967 he worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Heart Institute, teaching and doing research in cardiovascular and exercise physiology. After that, he practiced medicine part-time at Denver General Hospital until 1989, also working as an instructor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Kentucky Medical Center during that time. Story Musgrave has written or co-authored 25 scientific papers about aerospace medicine, physiology, temperature regulation, and clinical surgery.

Story Musgrave at NASA

Since he first flew with the Marines, Musgrave has spent 18,000 hours in various air crafts. He was selected as a Scientific Astronaut by the National Academy of Sciences and NASA in 1967. After completing training, he took part in the development of the Skylab program, the purpose of which was to build the United States’ first space station. He also spent time designing space suits, life support systems, airlocks, and manned maneuvering units. Musgrave then became a test and verification pilot. After that, he served as a capsule communicator, the astronaut on the ground who is the primary correspondent with a space shuttle during a mission.

Following this introductory period, Musgrave finally got the opportunity to make his first spaceflight. He served as a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger’s first flight, during which he performed the first shuttle spacewalk. When speaking of his time spent as an astronaut, Musgrave said, “I worked very hard at catching and experiencing all of it and expressing it to others. It was a privilege to have the amounts of time that I was given in aircraft and spacecraft and did my best to be to be a true witness to the world.” In all, Musgrave served as a Mission Specialist on five space shuttle flights and a Payload Commander on one. He flew six flights in total, including the first hubble telescope servicing and repair mission. Musgrave believed very strongly in the importance of his work: “Spaceflight is not reflexive—it’s not kick the tires and light fires. It’s a very complicated artistic business—being good. So experience pays off. You have to like the space business, not just the flying.”

Other Interests

Story Musgrave retired from NASA in 1997, wrapping up his 30 year career as an astronaut. However, he has kept himself busy, operating a palm farm in Florida, a production company in Australia, and a sculpture company in California. He also works as a consultant to both Disney’s Imagineering group and Applied Minds in California. Musgrave has made many appearances in film and TV and is a frequent speaker on space, medicine, and everything in between. He also works as a landscape architect and a professor of design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

Story MusgravePlease contact us if you would like to book Story for your next event.
For further speakers on related topics like space and medicine, check out the Keynote Speakers Lists on our website!

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