All achievers

Story Musgrave, M.D.

Dean of American Astronauts

The way you remember the past depends upon your hope for the future. And if you have the courage to grab the reins and take hold of your current life, then the past really becomes a rather nice place, no matter what went on.

Private Musgrave, United States Marine Corps, 1954. (NASA)
Private Story Musgrave, United States Marine Corps, 1954. (NASA)

Franklin Story Musgrave was born in Boston and raised on his parents’ farm near Stockbridge, Massachusetts. By his own account, his early home life was violent and chaotic, but he found solace in nature and learned habits of self-sufficiency at an early age. As a small child, he wandered alone in the neighboring woods, and by his teens he was operating and repairing tractors, trucks and combines. At 18, Story Musgrave joined the United States Marine Corps. In the Corps, he served as an aircraft electrician and mechanic, and learned to fly. After completing this service, he enrolled at Syracuse University where, in 1958, he received a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and statistics. Upon graduation from Syracuse, he went to work for the Eastman Kodak Company as a mathematician and operations analyst.

1967: Story Musgrave was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in August 1967. He completed astronaut academic training and then worked on the design and development of the Skylab Program. He was the backup science-pilot for the first Skylab mission.
1967: Story Musgrave was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA. He completed astronaut academic training and worked on the development of the Skylab Program. He was backup science-pilot for the first Skylab mission.

In the years that followed, he earned an MBA in operations analysis and computer programming from UCLA. The following year he added a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Marietta College and, in 1964, received his Doctor of Medicine degree from Columbia University. Leaving Kodak, he served a surgical internship at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington. He remained at Kentucky on post-doctoral fellowships from the Air Force and the Heart Institute, earning an additional master’s degree in physiology and biophysics. High-altitude flight and the then-new space program had created new areas of medicine, and Dr. Musgrave was in the forefront, pursuing research in cardiovascular and exercise physiology and in the medicine of aviation.

1967: Story Musgrave in a Skylab simulation medical experiment.
1967: Story Musgrave in a Skylab simulation medical experiment.

In August 1967, Musgrave was selected by NASA to be among the first cohort of astronaut-scientists. Until then, astronauts had been chosen from the ranks of military test pilots. After completing astronaut training, he worked on the design and development of the Skylab program and served as backup science pilot for the first Skylab mission. Dr. Musgrave helped design the spacesuits, life support systems, airlocks and manned maneuvering units that would be used for spacewalks and other extravehicular activity on the Space Shuttle missions.

April 4, 1983: Space Transportation System Number 6, Orbiter Challenger, lifts off from Pad 39A carrying astronauts Paul J. Weitz, Koral J. Bobko, Donald H. Peterson and Dr. Story Musgrave.
April 4, 1983: The maiden voyage of Space Transportation System Number 6, Orbiter Challenger, lifts off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center carrying astronauts Paul Weitz, Koral Bobko, Donald Peterson and Story Musgrave.

From 1967 to 1989, while working for NASA, Musgrave served as a trauma surgeon at Denver General Hospital, and as a part-time professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. He also trained as a pilot and parachutist, earning his Air Force Wings and FAA ratings as flight instructor, instrument instructor, glider instructor, and airline transport pilot. He has flown 160 different types of civilian and military aircraft, and has made more than 800 free-falls, including 100 experimental free-falls designed to study human aerodynamics.

1983: Astronauts Story Musgrave, left, and Don Peterson float in the cargo bay of the Earth-orbiting space shuttle Challenger during their April 7, 1983 spacewalk on the STS-6 mission. Their "floating" is restricted via tethers to safety slide wires. Thanks to the tether and slide wire combination, Peterson was able to translate, or move, along the port side hand rails.
Story Musgrave, left, and Don Peterson float in the cargo bay of the Earth-orbiting space shuttle Challenger during their April 7, 1983 spacewalk on the STS-6 mission. Their “floating” is restricted via tethers to safety wires. Thanks to the tether and slide wire combination, Peterson was able to translate, or move, along the port side hand rails.

The first of Dr. Musgrave’s six trips into outer space took place on the maiden voyage of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. While on this mission, Musgrave and Don Peterson performed the first space walks off of the Shuttle. On his second Shuttle mission, he served as systems engineer during launch and reentry, and as a pilot during the orbital operations.

STS-61 was the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, and the fifth flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The mission launched on December 2, 1993 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
STS-61 was the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, and the fifth flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The mission launched on December 2, 1993 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Perhaps the most dramatic of Story Musgrave’s space missions was the fifth, on the Shuttle Endeavour. Musgrave commanded the mission to repair the damaged Hubble Space Telescope. During this 11-day mission, the telescope was restored to full functionality. The repairs required five spacewalks, three performed by Dr. Musgrave himself.

1996: The crew assigned to the STS-80 mission included (seated left to right) Kent V. Rominger, pilot; and Kenneth D. Cockrell, commander. Standing (left to right) are mission specialists Tamara E. Jernigan, F. Story Musgrave, and Thomas D. Jones. Launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on November 19, 1996 at 2:55:47 pm (EST), the STS-80 mission marked the final flight of 1996. The crew successfully deployed and operated the Orbiting and Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrometer-Shuttle Pallet Satellite II (ORFEUS-SPAS II), and deployed and retrieved the Wake Shield Facility-3 (WSF-3).
The crew assigned to the STS-80 mission included (seated left to right) Kent V. Rominger, pilot; and Kenneth D. Cockrell, commander. Standing (left to right) are mission specialists Tamara E. Jernigan, F. Story Musgrave, and Thomas D. Jones. Launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on November 19, 1996, the STS-80 mission marked the final flight of 1996. The crew successfully deployed and operated the Orbiting and Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrometer-Shuttle Pallet Satellite II, and deployed and retrieved the Wake Shield Facility-3.

Story Musgrave flew his last space mission in January 1996, on the Space Shuttle Columbia. On this mission, the crew deployed and retrieved reusable satellites for studying the origin and composition of the stars, and to experiment with super-vacuum conditions in which thin film wafers can be grown for use in the semiconductor industry.

2013: Story Musgrave with his NASA mission badges. A veteran of six space flights, Dr. Musgrave has spent a total of 1,281 hours, 59 minutes, 22 seconds in space.
2013: Story Musgrave with his NASA mission badges. A veteran of six space flights, Dr. Musgrave has spent a total of 1,281 hours, 59 minutes, 22 seconds in space. He is the only astronaut to have flown on all five Space Shuttles.

A lifelong student, he has earned seven graduate degrees in all, including master’s degrees in literature and psychology. His interests include poetry, chess, gardening, photography, computer, running, scuba diving, flying and soaring in gliders. Today, he conducts multiple enterprises, including a palm farm in Orlando, Florida, a production company in Sydney, Australia, and a sculpture company in Burbank, California. In addition to his business activities, he practices landscape architecture, serves as a consultant with Walt Disney Imagineering, and teaches at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

The most dramatic of Dr. Story Musgrave’s space missions was his fifth flight on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The mission launched on December 2, 1993 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Dr. Musgrave commanded the mission to repair the damaged Hubble Space Telescope. During the mission, the Hubble was restored to functionality.

Inducted Badge
Inducted in 1994

“I came from an extraordinarily dysfunctional family, full of abuse and alcoholism. It’s hard to say what drives a three year-old, but I think I had a sense that nature was my solace, and nature was a place in which there was beauty, in which there was order.”

When Story Musgrave was a boy in western Massachusetts he could scarcely imagine the world outside his parents’ farm. In time, his adventures would take him far from the farm, away from the earth itself, as one of NASA’s first astronaut-scientists.

Story Musgrave is unique in the modern world. He is a scientist, surgeon, pilot, teacher, photographer, athlete and poet. He has flown on all six vehicles of the Space Shuttle program, logging over 1,200 hours in space flight. His ingenuity and stamina dazzled the world when he commanded the mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, in orbit high above the earth. He continued to fly in space in his 60s, an age when most of his colleagues were living comfortably in retirement.

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When did you first imagine going into space?

Keys to success — Vision

Story Musgrave: Starting as a three-year-old on a dairy farm, a thousand-acre dairy farm, nature became my world. Even as a three-year-old, I could go out in the forest and, at seven, eight o’clock at night, dark, and I was totally at home in the fields, the woods, the rivers from the earliest age, that became my world. Lying in a damp, cool, freshly plowed field, just after a sunset and looking out into the heavens, that became my world.

Back then, I couldn’t have said I wanted to go into space, because I was in graduate school before Sputnik went up.

Story Musgrave as a small child on Linwood Farm in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. (Courtesy of Story Musgrave)
Story Musgrave as a small child on Linwood Farm in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. (Courtesy of Story Musgrave)

When you went out to those forests, was there a sense of escaping from something troubling in the house?

Keys to success — Perseverance

Story Musgrave: I came from an extraordinarily dysfunctional family, full of abuse and alcoholism. And eventually everyone within the family had committed suicide. It’s hard to say what drives a three-year-old, but I think I had a sense that nature was my solace, and nature was a place in which there was beauty, in which there was order. And so, it may well be that I was, in a way, pushed away from the humanity that I was immersed in, out into a very, very serene and comfortable world.

Both parents committed suicide?

Story Musgrave: Yes, both parents eventually did, and a brother. It turns out, this strain runs on both sides of the family. My great-grandfather committed suicide, grandfather did, father, mother, brother, a son.

August 5, 1973: S73-31964 — This group of flight controllers discuss the day's approaching extravehicular activity (EVA) to be performed by the Skylab 3 crewmen. They are, left to right, scientist-astronaut Story Musgrave, a Skylab 3 spacecraft communicator; Robert Kain and Scott Millican, both of the Crew Procedures Division, EVA Procedures Section; William C. Schneider, Skylab Program Director, NASA Headquarters; and Milton Windler, flight director. Windler points to the model of the Skylab space station cluster to indicate the location of the ATM's film magazines. The group stands near consoles in the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) of the JSC Mission Control Center (MCC).
August 5, 1973: This group of flight controllers discuss the day’s approaching extravehicular activity (EVA) to be performed by the Skylab 3 crewmen. They are, left to right, scientist Story Musgrave, a Skylab 3 spacecraft communicator; Robert Kain and Scott Millican, both of the Crew Procedures Division, EVA Procedures Section; William C. Schneider, Skylab Program Director, NASA Headquarters; and Milton Windler, flight director. Windler points to the model of the Skylab space station cluster to indicate the location of the ATM’s film magazines. The group stands near consoles in the Mission Operations Control Room of the JSC Mission Control Center.

Was there any experience or event in your childhood that was a positive influence?

Story Musgrave: All of those events I just recollected were positive experiences. I didn’t wish those tragedies upon the people who played them out. It was certainly tragic for them, but not for me. All of those things brought me to where I am. Without those things, I couldn’t be who I am, I wouldn’t be here.

Keys to success — Courage

The way you remember the past depends upon your hope for the future. And if what you see in your future has no hope, it has no potential, then you view the past that brought you to here as not very good. For myself, all of those things were ways that I built myself, that I measured up, that I… that I got self-reliance. That I learned even as a three-year-old that I see this world that is really a mess and I learned to say, this is not me. I am not the one that is messed up. It is out there.

You learn self-reliance. You learn to associate with the good and — even though you suffer — you do get enough distance psychologically from what is going on, in order to form your own ground. Those unbelievable tragedies are what built me. I look back upon them as my Rock of Gibraltar, strangely enough.

I think there are huge lessons there, for young people who are getting started in life, as well as other people. And that is, to take responsibility for your own life. Only you are responsible for the course you take from there. You cannot say, “I went through this,” or “I have this in my background, therefore I have a right to be unsuccessful, or a right to fail.” If you want to, fine, do that. But no matter what went on, you do have responsibility for the direction of your own life.

The way you remember the past depends upon your hope for the future. And if you have the courage to grab the reins and take hold of your current life, then the past really becomes a rather nice place, no matter what went on.

1983: These four astronauts represent the first crewmembers to man the space shuttle Challenger when it launched from Launch Pad 39A to begin STS-6 in early 1983. Seated are Paul J. Weitz (left), crew commander, and Karol J. Bobko, pilot. Standing are Donald H. Peterson (left), and Story Musgrave, both mission specalists. They are pictured with a model of the shuttle in launch configuration, the U.S. flag and their mission emblem.
1983: These four astronauts represent the first crewmembers to man the space shuttle Challenger when it launched from Launch Pad 39A to begin STS-6 in early 1983. Seated are Paul J. Weitz (left), crew commander, and Karol J. Bobko, pilot. Standing are Donald H. Peterson (left), and Story Musgrave, both mission specalists. They are pictured with a model of the shuttle in launch configuration, the U.S. flag and their mission emblem.

You trained as a physican. When did you first see the possibility of a career in space?

Keys to success — Passion

Story Musgrave: Space is a calling of mine, it struck like an epiphany. That occurred when NASA expressed an interest in flying people who were other than military test pilots. And when I was off in the Marine Corps in Korea, I had not graduated from high school yet, and so I could not fly. And so, I was not a military test pilot, but as soon as NASA expressed an interest in flying scientists and people who were not military test pilots, that was an epiphany that just came like a stroke of lightning. And, I saw that everything I had ever done in life could be used in that endeavor. It just fit and it felt just right.

On July 29, 1985, Challenger rocketed into orbit, carrying her eighth human crew on a week-long voyage to explore the sun and the cosmos with a battery of scientific instruments. Mission 51F had already endured a harrowing main engine shutdown, seconds before liftoff, on July 12, but any belief that the seven astronauts had weathered their run of bad luck was sorely mistaken. Six minutes after launch, and 67 miles above Earth, a main engine failure necessitated an Abort to Orbit (ATO), marking the only major in-flight abort ever effected during a shuttle launch. Challenger limped into a low but stable orbit, ready for an ambitious mission, which, despite its scientific bonanza, would forever become known for its role in “The Cola Wars.” Aboard Challenger that morning was one of the oldest crews ever launched into orbit, with an average age of 47, and just two previous space missions between them. In command was veteran astronaut Gordon Fullerton, joined on the flight deck for ascent by pilot Roy Bridges, flight engineer Story Musgrave, and the oldest man in space, Karl Henize. Downstairs, on the shuttle’s darkened flight deck, were fellow astronauts Tony England, John-David Bartoe and Loren Acton. And for solar physicist Acton, the sensation of lifting off from Earth was comparable to the Loma Prieta earthquake of October 1989, which hit the Greater San Francisco Bay area and measured 7.1 on the Richter scale.
On July 29, 1985, Challenger rocketed into orbit, carrying her eighth human crew on a week-long voyage to explore the sun and the cosmos with a battery of scientific instruments. Mission 51F had already endured a harrowing main engine shutdown, seconds before liftoff, on July 12, but any belief that the seven astronauts had weathered their run of bad luck was sorely mistaken. Six minutes after launch, and 67 miles above Earth, a main engine failure necessitated an Abort to Orbit (ATO), marking the only major in-flight abort ever effected during a shuttle launch. Challenger limped into a low but stable orbit, ready for an ambitious mission, which, despite its scientific bonanza, would forever become known for its role in “The Cola Wars.” Aboard Challenger that morning was one of the oldest crews ever launched into orbit, with an average age of 47, and just two previous space missions between them. In command was veteran astronaut Gordon Fullerton, joined on the flight deck for ascent by pilot Roy Bridges, flight engineer Story Musgrave, and the oldest man in space, Karl Henize. Downstairs, on the shuttle’s darkened flight deck, were fellow astronauts Tony England, John-David Bartoe and Loren Acton. And for solar physicist Acton, the sensation of lifting off from Earth was comparable to the Loma Prieta earthquake of October 1989, which hit the Greater San Francisco Bay area and measured 7.1 on the Richter scale.

The Challenger disaster must have been a terrible blow to you personally.

Keys to success — Courage

Story Musgrave: I have always known the risks of the shuttle, and the risks are very high. It’s the most dangerous vehicle we’ve ever flown without escape capability, and I knew that from the very start. It was distressful though. I knew we would have an accident, but I expected it to be what we call an act of God, in which the entire team was doing exactly what they should have been doing to the best of their abilities. But you are operating such a fragile vehicle — a butterfly strapped onto a rocket — that no matter how perfect you are, you’re going to lose something. I expected the accident would be due to that, as opposed to just out-and-out negligence. That is what was troublesome.

The faulty decision process, the fact there really wasn’t a decision process, the misjudgment of having foot-long icicles all over the pad and knowing the data between O-ring function and temperature and all of those things, and to go ahead anyway, that was what was really distressing.

The positive side of that is that, since that time, I have seen the right decisions being made. We have really operated that shuttle perfectly since then. It’s a huge compliment to NASA and the industry that, even though this airplane is unbelievably fragile and difficult to operate, they have done it just about perfectly since then. It tells you that when you really want to do something, you can.

1993, Space Shuttle Mission STS-61: Astronaut F. Story Musgrave, anchored on the end of the Remote Manipulator System (RMS) arm, prepares to be elevated to the top of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to install protective covers on the magnetometers. Astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman inside payload bay, assisted Musgrave with final servicing tasks on the telescope, wrapping up five days of space walks. STS-61 was the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, and the fifth flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The mission launched on December 2, 1993 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission restored the spaceborne observatory's vision, marred by spherical aberration, with the installation of a new main camera and a corrective optics package.
1993, Space Shuttle Mission STS-61: Astronaut F. Story Musgrave, anchored on the end of the Remote Manipulator System (RMS) arm, prepares to be elevated to the top of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to install protective covers on the magnetometers. Astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman inside payload bay, assisted Musgrave with final servicing tasks on the telescope, wrapping up five days of space walks. STS-61 was the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, and the fifth flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The mission launched on December 2, 1993 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission restored the spaceborne observatory’s vision, marred by spherical aberration, with the installation of a new camera and a corrective optics package.

Tell us about repairing the Hubble space telescope. It seemed like there was an awful lot of pressure on you.

Story Musgrave: I never felt the external pressure. It was there, of course. I think if we had not repaired the telescope, it would have been the end of the space station, because space station requires a huge number of space walks. I think it was fair to use the Hubble space telescope as a test case for space walks, to say, “Can NASA really do what they say they can do up there?”

Of course, people wanted it fixed. It was an egregious error of negligence that the primary mirror was not the right curvature. There were a lot of things that had failed on the telescope at a more rapid rate than they should have.

Hubble touches people. When you’re looking that far out, you’re giving people their place in the universe, it touches people. Science is often visual, so it doesn’t need translation. It’s like poetry, it touches you. There were all those reasons that this repair needed to happen. I recognized that. But when I went to work I did not feel that pressure; it’s not the way I work.

Keys to success — Passion

I work for perfection, for perfection’s sake. I don’t care what the external reasons are. And it’s much more like a ballerina on opening night. You’ve done what you’ve got to do. When you go out, the purpose is to turn a perfect turn. You are not thinking about the future of the company, you are not thinking about your future, you’re not thinking about the critics, it is you and the perfect turn. It is an Olympic high jumper and the bar, there is nothing else there. And it’s taking that form, and those steps, it is doing the pattern, the rhythm that you have built to accomplish the job. And so, getting ready, I choreographed the thing right down to where every finger, every toe, where 300 tools are. How the tools are going to move around. Every work site, what is the right body position to get in? How you restrain yourself, how you get the job done, and not really even touch the telescope.

That was what it was about. It’s the same as an Olympic athlete, but it’s really much more like a ballerina, because it’s a zero-G dance out there. It’s you, it’s bodies, and it’s tools, and five days of work.

That’s not pressure, that is the ultimate focus, and the ultimate choreography of every little tiny detail. That is what tends to guarantee the result. As opposed to concentrating and focusing on the end, you focus on the minute tasks, and guarantee that every one of them is done to perfection, that is the way you guarantee the good result.

And so, I did not let that pressure ever get to me. I am after perfection, the same as an Olympic athlete or ballet, and it’s not the result that I focus on. And I think that’s why the result was so good.

1993: Story Musgrave
1993: Musgrave aboard the Space Shuttle where he serviced the Hubble telescope during five days of space walks.

What was the greatest challenge in fixing the Hubble?

Story Musgrave: The most difficult task is what’s called “solar ray drive electronics replacement.” You’re just replacing an electronic box, but it has little connections on it, about the size of the connections on the back of your personal computer and little screws that were two or three millimeters. That had to be loosened up, and taken out to put the next box in. The tools were not captive in zero-G, they would dance their way out and go floating. These two or three millimeter screws are non-captive, and simply floated out of the container. And it took at least one screw on each connector to hold the connector in.

Keys to success — Perseverance

I had told the program months in advance that I was unable to do that job. If you see a person having extraordinary difficulty doing some job, the first thing you ask is, “Why didn’t they foresee the problems and head them off ahead of time?” I had told the program, “I am unable to do that job in space,” because of loose screws and the fact they were not captive. Because of that, we had come up with a set of clips in which you shove the connector down, and the little springs would come over and grab it. And so screws would not be required. A month before we went to go fly, we got the clips and they were the wrong size. We didn’t have time to come up with new clips, so we had to go forward with a job which I had told them could not be done. And we went forward and did it anyway. But I was pressed for hours, right at the edge of my ability to do it. The outcome was in doubt. And with thousands of hours in a suit, that was by far the hardest work that I’ve ever had to do. It was just gruesome, meticulous work.

So when you were actually doing it, you believed that these clips weren’t the right clips, but you had to do it anyway.

Story Musgrave: We launched without the clips, because we found out ahead of time that they were the wrong size. I launched knowing I had to do a job which I had already told the programmers was too difficult to do.

Story Musgrave, Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award
Awards Council member, Dr. Story Musgrave, presents the Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award to Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones, who were the first to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe, during a symposium and luncheon at the 1999 International Achievement Summit in Budapest, Hungary.

How did you feel when you knew that you had done it and it was going to be all right?

Story Musgrave: As soon as we had done some part of the job, they were incredibly good about using the work we had done to operate the telescope. The very first time they went to slue those big solar panels, they used the box I put in. So the words they came up with were, “We used your box and it’s working fine.” I felt very good about that.

It was not a victory in the sense that I’ve never celebrated a victory over that. I’m such a long-term investor, I’ve never really let go and celebrated what I did with the Hubble telescope. Obviously, I’m incredibly glad to see the pictures that we’re getting, but I never did celebrate the way people celebrate athletic victories or other accomplishments. I think I sensed that the victory was accomplished on the ground, not so much during flight. I look upon attacking the details, the way I worked out the choreography and the methods on the ground, not so much during flight. It really produced much more of a sense of humility in me than elation for some strange reason. For me, it’s kind of a journey, there are no ends. I look upon that as part of the journey. I’m going to keep going, and I’m going to keep doing the same thing. There really isn’t a time to pause and have a celebration. I feel so serious about the whole thing. It doesn’t seem appropriate to me to celebrate a victory. It’s just the beauty of the work. And there’s another dance tomorrow.