Our Man in Space: Feinberg Professor Robert Satcher

When the rockets on the Space Shuttle Atlantis roared to life, Robert "Bobby" Satcher felt like a "giddy kid getting his first ride on a roller coaster, only amplify that a thousand times."

Satcher soared into space in November. A mission specialist, he and his fellow mission crew traveled 4.5 million miles on an 11-day journey to the International Space Station. The first orthopedic surgeon to orbit the Earth, he used his surgical training to repair an antenna and robotic arms during his two spacewalks. 

"The closest analogy for being in space that I can make is that it was like being in an iMax theater," Satcher said. "You feel like you're in the picture. The colors are vivid, and the views are incredible. That's how it is.

"It's an amazing sight to see Earth in the backdrop of space. Space is pitch black, and Earth is a little blue marble. You see this thin layer of atmosphere, and you realize what a wonderful and precious resource we have here."

Satcher enjoyed his time in space, saying he slept and ate well — including a Thanksgiving dinner of smoked turkey — and found that the lack of gravity eased any joint aches and pains. "In space," he said, "you feel like you're 18 or 20 years old again."

Satcher, a specialist in child and adult bone cancer, traveled to space just after Michael Barratt (FSM85, GFSM88, 89) recently returned to Houston from his mission on the space station. Satcher is the third Northwestern-connected astronaut. Joseph Kerwin (FSM57) studied the health of his crewmates in Skylab 2 in 1973.

Satcher has been on leave from Northwestern since he was accepted into the NASA program in 2004. In the immediate future he will work on post-flight analysis and mission support at the Johnson Space Center.