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Dr Story Musgrave – Physician, Pilot, Astronaut

Dr Story Musgrave
Dr Story Musgrave

I recall seeing an inspiring commercial from US Navy recruiters (see below) some years ago.  After showing a series of action-packed video clips, the narrator asks the provocative question:

If someone wrote a book about your life, would anyone want to read it?

When I first learned about Dr Story Musgrave and his most exceptional life, this question immediately arose in my mind.  The inquiry, I answered without hesitation.   I was inspired.

Who would’t read that book?




Neurosurgeon, USAF & NASA test pilot, mathematician, author, public speaker, trauma surgeon, NASA astronaut.  Achieving any one of these careers is reserved for only the most ambitious, intelligent and successful of individuals. Yet Story Musgrave successfully attained and excelled in each of these professions. Poet, instructor, consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and loving father.  He also did much, much more. A quick glance at the various achievements of Story Musgrave will make even the most energetic feel slightly lazy.

Franklin Story Musgrave was born in 1935 and raised on a large dairy farm in Massachusetts. His early childhood was a troubled one, but he persevered amidst these obstacles. He entered the United States Marine Corps in 1953, serving as an aviation electrician and instrument technician, and later as an aircraft crew chief and tank operator.

Musgrave is an obvious lover of education, currently enjoying 8 advanced degrees in a diverse variety of subjects. He began his journey in higher education directly following his early military career.  Here are some of the degrees he currently possesses:

  • B.S. in mathematics & statistics (Syracuse University 1958)
  • M.B.A. in operations analysis & computer programming (University of California at Los Angeles 1959)
  • B.A. in chemistry (Marietta College 1960)
  • M.D. (Columbia University 1964)
  • M.S. in physiology and biophysics (University of Kentucky 1966)
  • M.A. in literature (University of Houston 1987)



Story Musgrave graduated from Columbia’s medical school in 1964 and began a surgical residency at University of Kentucky.  Three years into his surgical training, however, a magazine article describing a new NASA flying program captured his imagination.  Aviation and space became Musgrave’s passion and he soon left clinical medical training.  Although he had not completed his surgical residency, from 1967 until 1989, he continued clinical and scientific training as a part-time surgeon and Emergency Room physician at Denver General Hospital.  He also continued to work part-time as professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Kentucky Medical Center.

Story describes this ‘fork in the road’:

As a Surgical Intern and Resident I received clinical training in General Surgery and several of the Surgical Specialties as a foundation for my intended career in Neurosurgery.  Then one day I spotted an article in Science Magazine that NASA was creating a program to fly Astronauts with extensive scientific education and experience. Oh dear, it is another unexpected fork in the road but everything that I had ever done would work in this career.  I departed the clinical training and dove into the sciences. As a National Heart Institute Postdoctoral Fellow I conducted research in Cardiovascular Physiology and I taught Physiology and Biological Physics to the Dental and Medical Students. As a Department of Defense Postdoctoral Fellow I performed Research in the Physiology of Spaceflight and Aerospace Medicine. I was selected as a Scientist Astronaut by the National Academy of Sciences and NASA in 1967.

He has also written 25 scientific papers in the areas of aerospace medicine, physiology, temperature regulation, exercise physiology, and clinical surgery.



NASA Test Pilot
NASA Test Pilot

In 1968, Dr Story became Captain Story.  He began indoctrination and flight training with the USAF in Texas.  He earned his USAF pilot wings graduating number one in his class.  He has flown 17,700 hours in 160 different types of civilian and military aircraft, including 7,500 hours in jet aircraft.  Musgrave served as test pilot, flight instructor, flight examiner, and safety officer for NASA.  He earned FAA ratings for instructor, instrument instructor, glider instructor, and airline transport pilot.

An accomplished parachutist, he has more than 500 free falls – including over 100 experimental free-fall descents involved with the study of human aerodynamics.



I’m a space person.” ~ Story Musgrave

Fixing Hubble
Fixing Hubble

In August 1967, Dr. Story Musgrave was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA . He completed astronaut academic training and then worked on the design and development of the Skylab Program.  In 1993, he was part of the crew that repaired the Hubble Telescope.  He was the backup science-pilot for the first Skylab mission, and served as lead spacecraft communicator (CAPCOM) for the second and third Skylab missions.  Dr. Musgrave participated in the design and development of all Space Shuttle extravehicular activity equipment including spacesuits, life support systems, airlocks, and manned maneuvering units.

A veteran of six space flights, Dr. Musgrave has spent a total of 1,281 hours 59 minutes, 22 seconds in space!  He has flown on all six vehicles of the Space Shuttle program and is also one of the oldest people to travel in outer space.  He was in his 60’s in his last space mission.  With Don Peterson, in 1983, he was the first to perform an extravehicular walk in outer space.

Story Musgrave’s official NASA biography providers greater details into each of his missions in outer space:





Dr Story Musgrave possesses an intellectual curiosity and artistic creativity unmatched by few.  Even at an age of 80 years, it is evident from recent speaking engagements that he continues to approach the universe with child-like wonderment.  This hunger for knowledge and ability to find beauty in complexity drove him to study medicine, aviation, and space (among a variety of other things); and it served him well during his varied career.  He is fascinated by human biology and disease, yet appreciates the beauty of aerodynamics and the serendipity of our cosmos.

Aerospace Medicine is certainly a small, niche field.  Many medical providers in aerospace medicine only pursue the profession as a transitional phase.  Dr Musgrave found the point where human medical doctoring and aerospace operations intersect in a way that few flight surgeons will ever be able to replicate.  But we should be inspired to try.

Even the name…Story.  Sounds like a book we should all want to read.