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If you like Story Musgrave's story, you might also like:
Daniel Goldin,
Paul MacCready,
John Mather,
Sally Ride,
Alan Shepard,
Donna Shirley
and Chuck Yeager

Story Musgrave's
recommended reading: Leaves of Grass

Story Musgrave also appears in the videos:
Frontiers of Exploration: From the Cell to the Solar System

Mystery of the Cosmos: Life's Place in the Universe

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Story Musgrave in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Poets & Poetry
The Cosmos

Related Links:
NASA
astronautix
Space Center Houston

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Story Musgrave
 
Story Musgrave
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Story Musgrave Interview

Dean of American Astronauts

May 22, 1997
Baltimore, Maryland

Print Story Musgrave Interview Print Interview

  Story Musgrave

When did you first know what you wanted to do?


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.

[ Key to Success ] Passion


What was your first image of going into space?

Story Musgrave: I would have taken whatever hand I was dealt. Space was it.


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.

[ Key to Success ] Vision


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

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


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.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance


Story Musgrave Interview Photo
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.

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.


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.

[ Key to Success ] Courage


Story Musgrave Interview Photo
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.

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This page last revised on Oct 14, 2010 13:56 EDT