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Fri February 7, 2014
Charlie & the Astronaut
SciWorks Radio is a production of 88.5 WFDD and SciWorks, the Science Center and Environmental Park of Forsyth County, located in Winston-Salem.
When you were a kid, did you want to be an astronaut? If you could have spoken to one, what would you ask?
We invited Charlie, a third grader and aspiring astronaut, to interview Dr. Thomas Marshburn, a native North Carolinian and accomplished astronaut.
Charlie: I wanted to know why Dr. Marshburn became an astronaut.
Hey Charlie, I’ll tell you what: when I was a kid science sounded like something I had to study in school. It turns out that science is all about being curious. I was very curious, I remain very curious. I grew up in Statesville, North Carolina. I moved later on to Atlanta, Georgia, and there was a science museum there, and I went to a medical Museum once also. I still remember those visits very well because for the first time someone was the deliberately trying to show me things that in some cases I didn’t even know was curious about. So that’s very much for part of my interest in science. I became a doctor because I wanted to be an astronaut, but as it turned out I fell in love with medicine and so I became an emergency doctor. That was my job until suddenly I got word that NASA was looking for doctors to help take care of astronauts. So I became a flight surgeon working for NASA. While I was there that's when I said “you know, I’ve always thought about how cool it would be to be an astronaut, so I’m going to put in my application.”
Charlie: Then I asked him what its like to be an astronaut, and what he's done in space.
Imagine how excited you are on Christmas morning. Well, that’s how excited we are sitting on the launch pad getting ready to launch. We just can’t wait to see what it's like to feel the rocket light under us. Working every day in zero gravity, even brushing my teeth and watching the water and my toothbrush float around are a lot of fun. One of the things I’ll remember best is the great people I got to work with. Even looking out the window with somebody so much more special because you can talk about and share those experiences. I was very proud of the ultrasound experiments we got to do. I was looking at my brain, my eye ball, the organs of my body in zero gravity which people hadn't seen before, seen all the organs floating around. If we thought someone had appendicitis, could we find their appendix in space? Because is not going to be in the place that it normally is on the ground. It’s probably floating around somewhere in the belly. Tanzania in Africa, they just had a huge flood. I remember with my commander Chris Hadfield, we were able to take pictures of the river as it flooded, the big storm that just passed over, and we can see all the areas where thousands and tens of thousands of people were being displaced. So, we were able to provide information that was able to go towards relief efforts, but also to better understand what kind of a storm is going to affect people so they can warn them the next time around. I did an emergency spacewalk. Four days before I was supposed to come home, we saw something out the window. We found out that there was a hole in the coolant system leaking outside. My spacewalking partner Chris Cassidy and I, in a day and a half, were outside and we were able to replace the part, and the leak went away. That one was special to me because usually the ground and the crew takes about nine days to get ready for a space walk. We were able to do it in a day and a half mostly because the ground did an enormous amount of work. So it was a real challenge to do that spacewalk so fast.
Charlie: Finally, I wanted to know how I could become an astronaut.
If you want to be an astronaut, start being an astronaut right now. What you can do today is get really good at something: science, technology engineering, math, medicine, and do the best you can at it. Along the way you'll fall in love with something and then do that as much as you can because you’ll be really good at it if you fell in love with it. There's nothing better than to love your work and to love discovery.
Charlie: Thank you Doctor Marshburn.
Very good to meet you Charlie.
Charlie: Nice to meet you too.