Monday, July 13, 2015

An Interview with Astronaut Rhea Seddon

On May 30 2015 former NASA astronaut Rhea Seddon was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center. Seddon was inducted into the Astronaut HOF with fellow Class of 2015 inductees John Grunsfeld, Kent Rominger and Steven Lindsey. I recently had the opportunity to ask Rhea a couple of questions on her experiences in both medicine and in space flight.

Astronaut Rhea Seddon
credit: Huffington Post
What were your favourite subjects in school?

I like lots of things – history, English, languages- but by far the one I liked best was biology.

I heard you say recently that while a lot of astronauts were interested in space exploration and our place in the cosmos, you were also interested in studying the effects of space flight on the explorers themselves. What sparked this interest?

In my biology class I learned how remarkable the human body is.  I was fascinated by how it was built, how it functioned, how it evolved, what made it sick and how it healed.  The thought of doing research that would help us understand how gravity affected humans – and other living things – was such an incredible opportunity I knew I had to fly in space.

How do you think your background as a surgeon helped you during your career as a shuttle astronaut?

It helped when I did the rat dissections on my third mission – but mostly I think it just proved that I had worked hard, learned a lot of things and wasn’t afraid to be a woman in what had been a man’s world.  Because I had also done research in nutrition, had practiced emergency medicine on the weekends and had my private pilot’s license I think I proved that I was interested in many things besides just surgery.

When you look back at the science that was conducted over the course of not only your own but all the Spacelab missions and then compare that to the science being conducted on the International Space Station, how far do you feel we have come in terms of conducting scientific research in space?

I really haven’t kept up with the research done on the ISS;  however the opportunity to fly for longer periods of time has given us considerably greater information about adaptation to space.  I wish we had equipped the Space Station with better animal holding facilities and a centrifuge so we could better understand partial gravity.    

What is your opinion on the One Year Mission to the ISS by Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko?

It is a remarkable opportunity to study two men- and of course, it will allow us to compare Scott’s changes to his twin’s.  It will give us an idea of what things we will need to focus study on as we plan for a mission to Mars.

What do you feel are the biggest obstacles we need to overcome in order to send astronauts to deep space destinations for a long period of time?

The two things that I don’t think we know enough about are bone loss and deep space radiation and its effects.

Seddon recently published her own book entitled "Go for Orbit" which is available to buy 
on her website. Signed editions of this book are also available.

Be sure to find out more about Rhea Seddon by visiting her blog by clicking here.

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