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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:
Space Center Houston

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Story Musgrave
Story Musgrave
Profile of Story Musgrave Biography of Story Musgrave Interview with Story Musgrave Story Musgrave Photo Gallery

Story Musgrave Interview (page: 7 / 7)

Dean of American Astronauts

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  Story Musgrave

You must have a sense of pride at having been on all five shuttles.

Story Musgrave Interview Photo
Story Musgrave: I don't really feel a sense of pride in having flown all the shuttles, or being the oldest person in space, or the other things that I've done. Those things are coincident with the fact that space is my calling. I have not just done it for seven or eight years, and then left, which is the average. I have looked upon it as my calling. I have tied it into my identity. I've pulled it into my childhood. It is part of my spiritual quest.

If I'd accomplished half as much in terms of the numbers, it would still be my calling, whether I flew three, or six, or one of the shuttles, or all of them. Whatever I have accomplished, the important thing is that it's coincident with a 30-year calling.

You've been an inspiration to a lot of people. Most people in your field have left by the time they reach your age.

Story Musgrave: Yes, most leave. Some leave in their 30s, and most leave in their 40s. It's been an incredible privilege. I think it's been a source of hope for my colleagues. They see that, for me, life is better in the 60s. I'm also better in space. People who have seen me over the decades know that.

I am better now, as an astronaut in my 60s, than in my 40s because it's a very complex business in which experience and perspective play a lot. You tend to scope out. You tend to know ahead of time what you're going to have to learn to get that job done. It's not a stick and rudder, it is not an instinctually reflective thing. You don't just jump on things, you've got to study them. And it's a very complex business in which experience counts. I create a lot of hope for people because they see, in fact, that not only am I better in my 60s, but I'm having more fun. They see a richer life. And so, I'm even amazed myself. I'm even amazed, too, that life is so much better in my 60s than my 20s.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

I'm not fooling myself, because there are loads of other people that can see, the richness that you have, when you can bring wisdom and perspective into this business.

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

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.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

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.

Story Musgrave Interview Photo
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.

Have you had difficulty balancing family and your calling?

Story Musgrave: It's a balancing act, there's no question. It's juggling, and it's a matter of priorities and trying to make everything fit. At times I look back and wonder if I could have done things differently, I could have had a different balance. Like other professionals, your quantitative time with your family is diminished, there's no question.

On the other hand, I did have quality time with the family. It was not, "I'm watching television and don't have time for you." I didn't do that. I had incredibly intense, good, quality time when I was with the family. There's no doubt there was less of that. Because I had a calling, they had to share that calling.

Story Musgrave Interview Photo
On the other hand, they have been able to participate in the same way a lot of professional kids do. Because their parents are professionals, they have been able to share, they have been on the edge of a huge number of disciplines, whether it's books, or visits to the university, or going down for launches. My 10 year-old has been to four launches, and been through that entire experience. He has seen what I go through to do that. And he has been exposed to all the technologies that a young child can and people, and all those other things.

All in all, I think you at least break even. Even though you lose your dad to the calling, and don't see anywhere near as much of him, I think the rewards in total balance out.

Where does the name Story come from?

Story Musgrave: Story was the last name a couple of generations back. My parents chose to use it as a first name and it fits. It's something that you have to live up to. I feel a responsibility there too. I think it's a wonderful name, but I do need to earn it and live up to it.

You need to tell the story of space.

Story Musgrave: Yes, I do. That's a responsibility also, but maybe the name will help.

Thank you so much for talking with us. It's been an inspiration.

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