Northwestern Doctor First Orthopedic Surgeon in Space
Robert “Bobby” Satcher, MD, PhD, became the first orthopedic surgeon to orbit the earth when he blasted off on the Space Shuttle Atlantis for his journey to the International Space Station Nov. 16.
Satcher embarked on three space walks with the STS-129 crew and relied on his surgical training in intricate joint replacements to help repair two robotic arms on the exterior of the space station.
Satcher, 44, is an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.
In addition to space walks, Satcher, as a proxy scientist, conducted experiments from the shuttle, investigating the effects of outer space on the immune system, changes in sitting height and bone formation in mice. He tweeted his experiences on www.twitter.com/astro_bones, a handle the public voted for him. He also tweeted about medical issues for space exploration on www.twitter.com/ZeroG_MD.
Satcher, a specialist in child and adult bone cancer who also is a surgeon at Children’s Memorial Hospital, left the earth’s atmosphere just after another astronaut with Northwestern ties returned from space. Michael Barratt, who earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Feinberg and who has taught about physiological changes that occur in space, recently returned to Houston from his mission on the space station.
Satcher is the third Northwestern-connected astronaut. Joseph Kerwin, who got his Doctor of Medicine degree from Northwestern, became the first American physician to make a spaceflight in Skylab 2, where he studied the health of his crewmates in 1973.
“I’m proud to continue the tradition,” Satcher said. He has been on leave from Northwestern since he was accepted into the NASA program in 2004.
Satcher’s wife, D’Juanna, a pediatrician, their two children and a contingent of Northwestern colleagues cheered him on at the shuttle’s liftoff. Two Northwestern flags, one from the University and one from Feinberg’s 150th anniversary, were with Satcher on his journey to the space station.
Click here to learn more about Satcher and read a pre-flight interview.