Story Musgrave — farm kid, mechanic, neurosurgeon and astronaut — has never lost his childhood sense of curiosity or the sense of discipline that propelled him to six spaceflights and a Hubble telescope rescue mission.
Musgrave, 81, shared the details of his climb to success with about 200 students, parents and community members Wednesday night at The Weiss School, 4176 Burns Road. Middle school students there are building a research satellite they hope NASA will chose to launch into space.
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Musgrave’s story started when he was a 3-year-old child playing in the 500 acres surrounding his family home in Stockbridge, Mass. He drove every piece of equipment on the farm by the age of 9 and was using a ratchet wrench at 16 that he’d end up using in space.
“We need to hang onto that awe and curiosity throughout life,” Musgrave said. “Curiosity is the energy to explore — to be excited about all the things that are around.”
It was what he did as a child that wired him for the rest of his life, he said. He used his skills as a mechanic when he left high school and joined the Marines, signing off airplanes to go to war in Korea. He was 18.
He didn’t take “no” for an answer when he sought a college education after returning from stints in Korea, Japan, Hawaii and an aircraft carrier in the Far East. He has six degrees, including a doctorate in medicine from Columbia University.
His creativity tempered by his attention to detail, along with his surgeon’s precision, came in handy when he was one of seven astronauts selected to repair the $2.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope in 1993. After the telescope was launched into orbit in 1990, NASA discovered its main mirror was flawed. It fell on Musgrave and his colleagues to fix it.
It required a lot of preparedness and a design for the conditions.
“It’s the dance. It’s the choreography. It’s like an athletic event,” he said after the talk.
He now operates a palm farm, a production company in Sydney and a sculpture company. His young daughter shares his passion for exploration and the outdoors.
Musgrave is concerned about the future of the space exploration. NASA ended the space shuttle program in 2011 amid budget cuts. More recently, the explosion of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Sept. 1 at the Kennedy Space Center threatened to delay the launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from Cape Canaveral.
“Space is a vision,” Musgrave said. He wants Washington, D.C., to come up with a vision and put the leadership in place to make it a reality.