Monday, March 11, 2013

NASA Month: An Interview with an Astronaut

All this month, I'm NASA! This means every weekday in March will feature a new post about NASA, and I'm hosting a giant giveaway in order to encourage people to spread the NASA love. For more information on the giveaway, check out this post.

Today we have a special guest interview from Erin Underwood, editor at Underwords Press, a small press that publishes anthologies with a special focus on young adult science fiction and also features a literary blog that explores a wider variety of genres. Today, I'm sharing an excerpt of an interview Erin did with former astronaut and scientist Dr. Robert “Bobby” Satcher, Jr. For the full interview, please go to Erin's blog here.


Guest Interview
Erin Underwood interviewing Dr. Bobby Satcher, Jr.

Photo credit: NASA
Dr. Satcher is a physician, chemical engineer, and former NASA astronaut. He was a crewmember of the STS-129 space mission, which launched out of Cape Canaveral on November 16, 2009, logging more than 259 hours in space.

Dr. Satcher received his PhD in chemical engineering from MIT and his MD from the Harvard Medical School. In addition, he has also been awarded honors for his work as a surgeon and as an engineer. He is married with two children.

Erin: We’ve all imagined what it must be like to be in space. We’ve watched the Star Wars movies and we’ve read about space in fiction, but you have actually been there. How did the reality of being in space differ from your expectations or from the experience that is usually depicted in films, television or fiction?

Dr. Satcher: It exceeded my expectations. I knew it was going to be a fantastic experience, and basically before you go, you’re relying on the stories from people who have already gone. We spend anywhere from two to four years training for a mission, and all crews that go are a mixture of people who have already gone and some first time flyers. You basically get to know each other very well. You get the reflections, the experiences, and the insights from the people who have gone before. That really shapes your expectations leading up to your flight. Nothing really reproduces it in any of the training that you go through. It is a unique experience. As I said, for me it exceeded my expectations.

It was much more fantastic than I thought it would be. The whole time you are up there it’s just…you’re discovering this whole new world with no gravity and adapting to that. Also, just the views are spectacular, looking down at the home planet, looking off into deep space. The whole thing is really an amazing experience. Up until now, there have been a little more than 500 people who have had the privilege of going into space and that number is only going to increase as time marches on. I think the more people who are able to experience it the better.

Erin: If I could do it, I would be up there. It sounds like you really do live a science fiction life–especially with your time in space and some of the medical advances that are now in place. How has science fiction enriched your life and/or your career? Do you ever feel like you’re living in a world designed by Isaac Asimov or Ray Bradbury?

Dr. Satcher: I never really thought about it that way. I think science fiction has been wonderful in the sense of laying out possibilities and some of those possibilities have actually been realized. People imagined certain things that we have initially done–like building a space station. I can’t tell you the author who did it, but I know this was something in science fiction literature a long time before it got realized.

The same thing is true with the space shuttle, which is a fairly radical concept for a spaceship, being that it acts as both a spaceship and as a glider once it gets back into Earth’s atmosphere.

There are other things that we’ve seen, like when you go back and look at Star Trek and some of the devices that they used–like the tricorder. There are certain companies that are trying to develop something like that now. And then there are the communicators, which look remarkably like cell phones that we’re using.

Erin: They really do. I would love it if you could develop a teleportation system. That would be fantastic.
Dr. Satcher: Yeah. I’d love to see that developed too. It would be great. One day it will happen. It just points out that imagination, of being able to come up with these concepts and it’s science fiction that at least creates the visual for us before we can have the real thing, is an essential part of the whole journey. It really captures the creativity and innovation before the science can actually catch up to it.

Erin: They were terrific. Many early science fiction writers wrote about future worlds, which now seem ordinary to us because our scientific advances. For today’s children, who might be dreaming about things that seem like they’re straight our of a science fiction novel, what advice can you give them to turn those dreams into reality?
Dr. Satcher: Pick something that you’re really interested in, and you really have to spend the time and effort going after it. I think there are a lot of distractions nowadays, and I see that with a lot of the students that I deal with. They’re sort of focused on an end goal and neglecting the importance of the process. They’re looking for the big payoff, the big discovery, the fame and the fortune, and everything that goes with it and not staying focused enough on the process.

For the full interview with Dr. Satcher, please click here.


Erin is the editor of FUTUREDAZE, an anthology of YA science fiction featuring a diverse collection of authors. You can find out more about Erin, her work at Underwords Press, and FUTUREDAZE by exploring her website


This post is a part of the month-long celebration of NASA I'm hosting on my blog. In order to encourage people to celebrate NASA, I'm also hosting a giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive all the books in the recent Breathless Reads tour, signed, as well as ARCs of two anthologies and a signed Breathless Reads poster:

As well as swag from NASA, courtesy of Kate @ Ex Libris:

To celebrate NASA creatively: you could blog about why you like NASA, you could reach out to an astronaut for an interview, you could make space fan art, you could sing a song about NASA, you do a vlog, you make a list of all the ways NASA rocks...any of this counts! Just celebrate NASA in some awesome way, post it online, and include the link in the Rafflecopter. I even set that part of the entry open for multiple entries, so you could blog and vlog and Facebook and tumblr and Pinterest about NASA and they all count. The only requirements: post a link back to this contest, and put the full URL of the site in the Rafflecopter. Full details here.

To enter: be sure to read the full rules and terms of the contest here. Then fill out the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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