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NU doctor to walk in space

Dr. Robert "Bobby" Satcher will be the first orthopedic surgeon to orbit the earth, when he blasts off on the Space Shuttle Atlantis for his 5-million mile journey to the International Space Station Monday.

Dr. Robert "Bobby" Satcher will be the first orthopedic surgeon to orbit the earth, when he blasts off on the Space Shuttle Atlantis for his 5-million mile journey to the International Space Station Monday.

Scheduled to embark on three space walks with the STS-129 crew, Satcher will rely 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, will conduct experiments from the shuttle, investigating the effects of outer space on the immune system, changes in sitting height and bone formation in mice.

He will tweet his experiences on www.twitter.com/astro_bones, a handle the public voted for him. He’ll also tweet 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, will leave 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.

Cheering on the ground at liftoff will be Satcher’s wife, D’Juanna, a pediatrician, their two children and a contingent of Northwestern colleagues. Satcher will carry to the space station two Northwestern flags, one from the University and one from the Feinberg School’s 150th anniversary.

An interview with Dr. Satcher is available online.

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