Surgeon Joins Newest Class of NASA Astronaut Candidates
NASA announced last month that Dr. Robert L. Satcher, an orthopaedic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and researcher at Northwestern University, is part of the next generation of space explorers as he joins the newest class of astronaut candidates.
Satcher, who is African American, was an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he heard African American astronaut Ron McNair, also an MIT alum, speak. When McNair later died in the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, Satcher decided to honor his legacy and formally apply to the astronaut program. “It really made me think about what being an astronaut means,” Satcher said. “I thought, ‘I can do this. I should do this.'”
Satcher is one of 11 people chosen by NASA from a field of about 2,000 applicants. He is one of two physicians in the class that also include pilots, engineers, researchers and educators.
During their NASA careers, members of the 2004 astronaut class may help develop the Crew Exploration Vehicle, study the effects of microgravity on the human body, and possibly help plan lunar missions. The class begins training this summer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Once the astronaut candidate class completes a year of training they will be eligible to be assigned to a mission.
Satcher, who is 38, came to Northwestern Memorial over two years ago and specializes in musculoskeletal oncology. He is an assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a researcher at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and Northwestern’s Institute for Bioengineering and Nanoscience in Advanced Medicine. He is a specialist in child and adult bone cancer and is also an attending physician at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Satcher is leading research on why tumors metastasize to the bone, working on developing bone substitutes for use in cancer patients, and investigating new drugs for the treatment of bone cancer.
“There’s some scientist in me. There’s some explorer in me,” Satcher said. “There’s a humanitarian in me also. Space is the one venue that has the highest potential for benefiting people if we continue to be serious about exploring it. I have always had an interest in service and science,” he adds.
“Dr. Satcher has answered two of the highest callings in science — medicine and space,” says Gary Mecklenburg, president and chief executive officer of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. “It’s a privilege to have a man of his vast talent and knowledge as an attending physician at Northwestern Memorial, and we wish him the best as he joins this elite group in their quest for answers to longstanding questions that are important to science and society.”
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