Former NASA astronaut to visit NMHM

By Paul Bello, National Museum of Health and Medicine

SILVER SPRING, Md. - First hand experiences about human space flight and its effects on the body will be shared with the public this month as the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) welcomes Dr. Mary Cleave, a former astronaut and science administrator with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to its monthly Medical Museum Science Café. Her discussion, 172 Orbits Around the Earth, will take place Tuesday, June 23 from 6 -7 p.m. at NMHM.

Cleave, who joined the astronaut corps in May 1980, has flown in space twice -- both times as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. She has logged a total of 10 days in space and has operated the shuttle's robotic arm and helped deploy the first planetary spacecraft from the shuttle, called Magellan.

"Pre-flight training for the early shuttle flights was a minimum of one year as assigned crew. It was focused on the shuttle systems that you were responsible for, the crew you would be flying with and the payloads assigned to that flight," Cleave said. "With manifest instability, it was not unusual to be assigned to a number of different payloads before a flight."

In her opinion, the biggest challenge she had as an astronaut was being one of the smallest in the corps. According to Cleave, the gear was better suited for larger people. Though, she said they had their own unique challenges, as well. Her discussion will also include any misconceptions the public has about being in space and what astronauts do to stay physically fit while in Earth's orbit.

NMHM's Medical Museum Science Cafés are a regular series of informal talks that connect the mission of the Department of Defense museum with the public. NMHM was founded as the Army Medical Museum in 1862 and moved to its new location in Silver Spring, Md. in 2012. For more information on this upcoming discussion, or other public programs, call 301-319-3303 or visit


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