Search Results for: ‘Marshburn’
NASA Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82 came home to alma mater’s patch of planet Earth this week, after more than five months in early 2013 on the International Space Station. It was a pleasure to shake his hand after having been in touch by phone, email and satellite uplink!
With grace and aplomb, my buddy Tom, the astronaut, gave several presentations on campus, as well as visiting the kudzu goats out by the cross-country trails (see previous post) and otherwise gadding about campus with his daughter Grace and wife Ann, two lovely and delightfully good-humored ladies.
At a Common Hour talk on Tuesday—unofficially subtitled “Bean Dip, Stewed Prunes, ZZ Top and YoYo Ma”—Marshburn spoke of things like translational velocities and parabolic arcs that match the curve of the Earth, by way of explaining the concept of orbital micro-gravity. Then, he recounted how his Soyuz rocket blasted off from Kazakhstan (“like lying on your back in a building that becomes a live animal”) and traveled to an altitude of some 250 miles up, sometimes at speeds of five miles per second. (Yes, per second.)
Next, with plenty of video clips to illustrate, Marshburn recounted some of the “science of opportunity” experiments he and his fellow astronauts and cosmonauts performed with “objects of opportunity” including smuggled vanillin (an ideal viscosity) and duct tape (self-explanatory).
“You start to notice things,” he said. “A lot of our experiments started with ‘Wow, that’s cool,’ and then ‘I wonder what would happen if….’”
• Spinning objects seeking a lower energy state behave differently on their spinning axes depending on whether they are liquid or solid, or both. Application: understanding how fuel tanks affect space flight physics.
• Table salt in a zip-lock bag coalesces in a noticeable pattern at a particular rate. (The grains of sodium chloride are dehydrated from food saline, which is the safety norm on ISS, to prevent weightless grains of salt from flying about willy-nilly at mealtime.) Application: Understanding how the very matter of the primordial universe came together into stars and planets, solar systems and galaxies.
• An Alka-Seltzer tablet dissolves in a huge drop of water big as your fist, in mid-air. Application: Um, I forget exactly, but it is totally cool to look at. In general, weightless liquids in space share some behavioral characteristics with micro-liquids on Earth, particularly in terms of “capillary” flow. Applications range from inkjet printers to HIV diagnostic tools.
At the end of his presentation, when Marshburn’s PowerPoint relinquished the screen to his computer’s desktop, the juxtaposition of astronaut and regular guy came into focus: next to desktop folders marked “Cosmonauts” and “Award Debriefs” were others marked “Invest and Retire” and that old, familiar standby, “Files I Never Use.”
And in the “Launch Pad Tunes” folder? U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day,” Joe Satriani’s “Summer Song” and Muse, maybe a little “Uprising”?….
Tuesday night, after dinner at the President’s House with classmates, roommates, professors and others, Marshburn gave a public lecture in Duke Family Performance Hall complete with Q&A for the kids of all ages and photo-opps for all at the reception afterward.
Wednesday afternoon, Marshburn made time in his schedule for a visit to College Communications—housed in the college’s Julia Johnston House on Main Street, where he lived upstairs as a sophomore when the building was student housing. He regaled staffers with stories of how he and his housemates cheered, in what is now the office kitchen area, for televised matches of the U.S. Hockey Team in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
He also regaled us with the story of the “party of the century,” held in the JJ House that year, a costume party with the theme of dressing up as your repressed desire. Already as a 20-year-old, though, he knew his own desire to be an astronaut, and showed up wrapped in tin foil and sporting a borrowed motorcycle helmet….
At a physics seminar hosted Wednesday afternoon by his erstwhile faculty adviser, Richardson Professor of Physics Larry Cain, Marshburn went in to deeper detail about all things physics, for instance radiation (astronauts in space are classified as “radiation workers” and can sometimes see solar protons flashing through their eyeballs). He talked about International Space Station experiments and observations that are adding mightily to the core of human knowledge about nutrition, mental health, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, fish and plants, microencapulation, antimattter, dark matter and “strangelets.”
As luck would have it, Marshburn’s fellow astronaut, Mike Hopkins, was blasting off from Kazakhstan during the seminar, so Marshburn toggled the NASA feed in at an opportune moment to watch the launch. (“I’m getting sweaty palms just watching.”)
With awe in the spirit Tom shares with Davidson, with admiration for him as a fellow Earthling alumnus with “humane instincts and a creative and disciplined mind for a life of leadership and service,” and with thanks on behalf of Davidson to Tom, Ann and Grace for a wonderful visit, I’ll close with a quote from Tom himself, from one of the April satellite downlinks from ISS to the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room:
“I think space flight is actually the epitome of what is important about a liberal arts education. We see this absolute wonder that’s up here, we see it with the robotics of exploration on Mars and in our solar system and even leaving our solar system….
“But how that relates to humans is the most important part of it. We can have complete technical mastery over our world, but we can still do bad things with that. So it’s not just about enriching our culture, which is very important, but it’s actually essential for our survival, that we know what to do with the technical accomplishments we’ve made.”
For archival coverage on Marshburn, including links to Davidson and NASA video, explore here.
This just in from a campuswide “town meeting” with President Carol Quillen and several enthusiastic hundreds of her closest campus friends.
It was standing room only during Common Hour in the Lilly Family Gallery, 11:05 a.m., Sept. 3, 2013.
“What will be different because we had this meeting?” Carol Quillen asked the crowd. “I hope you leave here with a sense of the high level of aspiration we have for the next several years, as well as a sense of objectives we hope to accomplish this academic year.”
Against a backdrop of stunning campus photography, compelling video clips and a few brief, concise and specific bullet points about Davidson’s most current themes and aspirations, Quillen called forth the good will and good work of Davidson’s staff, faculty, students, alumni, parents, friends and partners—up to and including those we have not yet met.
That’s a lot.
So, what would your 60-second “elevator speech” be to someone who knows nothing of Davidson? Quillen asked the crowd at one point during Q & A.
But first, Quillen deployed her formidable skills at evoking the Davidson of this moment—this very present and changing moment—in the collective mind assembled. Together, she said, we have designed new facilities, built and strengthened “Transition to Impact” initiatives, capped the strongest fundraising year in history, created new courses of study, and recruited the best faculty and staff nationwide. Among many other things.
“It’s an iterative process,” she said, “and we need your continued guidance to make it work.”
Quillen touched on many facets of the Davidson character that reflect brightly into the world, including the Honor Code, Division I athletics, growing relationships in Charlotte, and The Davidson Trust. “How do we pay for all of it?” someone asked in a video clip. Quillen responded that to stand fast in who we are and what we are about, with an endowment notably smaller than many peers, we are seeking more funding from people who do not yet know us. See “elevator speech” above.
Yes, we are reimagining the liberal arts, Quillen continued, and our commitment to the liberal arts ideal grows stronger.
“Approaching the liberal arts educational philosophy as a historian,” said Quillen, a history Ph.D., “I can tell you it hasn’t changed much since the 15th century!”
That said, it is 2013. “Our subjects, programs and methods change over time,” she said.
Then she moved outward from a classroom perspective to the broader, quotidian life of the mind, body and spirit at a small, residential, liberal arts college like Davidson. With a fine and heartfelt tip of the hat to President Emeritus Sam Spencer for his visionary work to help diversify Davidson in terms of race and gender in the 1960s and 1970s, Quillen sprang forward to more recent strategic planning themes that Davidson’s people—many of them in the room—were engaged in even before her arrival: interdisciplinarity, global perspectives, sustainability in all its senses, diversity and inclusion to match and meet the world we live in.
On the “excellence and access” plank of the platform that must accompany and support diversity and inclusion, Quillen stated the case succinctly: “Economic opportunity must be more than two words we say.”
On Davidson’s ethos of leadership and service, and the resulting disproportionate impact for good in the world, she let a long and growing list of alumni examples do the heavy lifting, including Tim ’00 and Brian ’07 Helfrich’s Summit Coffee just down Main Street, OrthoCarolina CEO Dan Murrey ’87 in Charlotte, Lowell Bryan ’68 and Steve Justus ’78 at the Touch Foundation, the civil rights advocacy of Yale law professor and GLBT advocate Bill Eskridge ’73, Agnes Scott President Elizabeth Kiss ’83, Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx ’93, education accessibility advocate Tiffany Hollis ’04, scientific researcher Rachel McCord ’04, educator and spoken-word artist Clint Smith ’10, Colgate University Provost Doug Hicks ’90…. The list went on.
Back to the tasks at hand for ensuring that this list continue to go on, Quillen reviewed, renewed and refreshed many specific programs and initiatives for “exploring what’s possible” this academic year and beyond.
She encouraged staff and faculty to get outside their departments and meet their colleagues from across campus: “Ask how what they do relates to what you do. That’s where some really great ideas come from.”
Those who know Davidson best, she said, should call attention in Admission to students who would be a good fit here, particularly those who might not apply without encouragement.
We should ask ourselves what makes Davidson different, and what it is and what it is becoming. And each person who comes in the door—students most obviously, and by extension everyone—gets to help decide just exactly what Davidson is and what it’s becoming.
That’s inclusion, said Quillen.
So, staff, faculty, students, alumni, parents, friends and partners, what’s your 60-second elevator speech about Davidson College?
Summer reading kickoff: Random links that reveal Davidson in bits and pieces.
Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82 once described to me in an interview how it feels when the rocket engine of your space capsule suddenly stops thrusting you skyward and, with no fanfare although you know it’s coming, drops you into orbit. From massive g-forces roaring under your backside to a feeling of simultaneous motionlessness and falling forward, silent and weightless in space as time itself begins to reconfigure.
The Davidson campus feels like that the week after graduation. For long stretches of time this week across Chambers Lawn, it’s been nothing but random grown-ups and squirrels and the occasional muffled banging of physical plant crews renovating Little Hall dorm. The first day, it was so quiet I could barely think.
Then, in the “thoughts between thoughts” that Professor and Chair of Art Cort Savage so eloquently evoked at the recent dedication of the campus’s new Jaume Plensa sculpture, I began, again this year, to sense the deeper spirit of the place itself—the spirits and voices of the land and the buildings and the people who’ve come before, alive and well in all the ways that matter most, yet oh-so-quiet until you pay attention in summer lulls. Open a yearbook for a virtual stroll, and you’ll remember, too.
For now I’m still hearing hear the echoes of the voices of those we’ve most recently sent out, my student friends and now fellow alumni whose taillights we watched disappear Sunday afternoon. It strikes me that graduation is a bridge not only for these freshly-minted graduates and their families, but for those of us who stay here, a bridge we cross every year.
And the warming sun filters through the trees on a campus suddenly quiet and weightless, as time itself reconfigures into summerti-i-i-ime….
Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield handed over control of the International Space Station yesterday to Expedition 36 command, as Canadian Hadfield, Russian Roman Romanenko and Davidson College Wildcat Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82 prepare to close the hatch this afternoon at 3:50 p.m. and return to Earth.
But first, Expedition 35/36 posted what’s being billed as the first music video from space, with Hadfield rocking revised lyrics in honor of their pending trip. Brilliant! Safe travels home, gentlemen, and, as the 1969 David Bowie single says, “May God’s love be with you….”
As this is posted, the video has recorded more than a million views on YouTube.
Since Wildcat NASA Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82′s conversations from space to the 900 Room, we’ve spotted him flying over Lake Norman several times at dawn or dusk, sun glinting off the International Space Station 230 miles up at 175,000 mph.
Now hear this, just in: NASA will broadcast live coverage of his expedition’s return to Earth May 12-14.
Technical difficulties have never kept NASA down for long, and the good folks in Houston were gracious and quick to reschedule last Friday’s event after a glitch prevented astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82 from hearing his fellow Davidsonians assembled in ye olde 900 Room. We’re on for this coming Monday afternoon!
Davidson College will host a live NASA downlink from the International Space Station (ISS) between 4:15 and 5:30 p.m., Monday, April 22, in the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room of the Alvarez College Union. This is rescheduled from a previous event that had technical difficulties. Attendees will have the opportunity to question alumnus Astronaut Thomas Marshburn, M.D. ’82, about his experiences aboard the ISS, 230 miles above Earth.
The event is free and open to the public but seating is limited. Doors will close at 4:45 p.m. and the half-hour question and answer session will begin at approximately 4:55 p.m. The session will be simulcast to an overflow area outside of the 900 Room as well as online at http://www.davidson.edu/live.
Marshburn is currently on his second space flight. He completed his first flight in July 2009 on Space Shuttle Endeavour. Just three-and-a-half months ago he launched again aboard Soyuz TMA-07M from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He is serving as flight engineer for Expedition 35, and will return to Earth in May.
Marshburn also served as a flight surgeon at Johnson Space Center, co-chair of medical operations for the Shuttle/Mir Space Program, NASA representative to the Harvard/MIT Smart Medical Systems Team of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, and lead flight surgeon and medical operations lead for Expedition 7 to the ISS.
Marshburn earned a bachelor’s degree from Davidson College as a physics major, and earned master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and University of Texas Medical Branch, and his medical degree from Wake Forest University.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,900 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
The downlink with Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82 (see previous post) we’ll call a success, because if you think about it, connecting with anybody in real time from space is a freakin’ miracle. We could see and hear Tom, but in the event, our audio to him made it only from Davidson’s expertly engineered sound boards to Houston, but not all the way to the International Space Station 230 miles up. So, instead of the planned Q&A moderated by Richardson Professor of Physics Larry Cain, Tom did some cool somersaults and weightless parlor tricks with water drinking bags and his microphone and a bag of hazelnuts, and gave us a verbal tour of the ISS. He answered a few of the questions we’d sent up by e-mail data packet, from the personal (no, he doesn’t feel lonely with his crewmates right there and a regular rotation of familiar mission-control voices around the globe numerous times per space “day”) to the philosophical (a critical-thinking, liberal-arts perspective is essential for humans’ very survival, especially in light of the technologically-oriented world we live in).
Big thanks to Tom and the good folks at NASA, and Larry Cain and Tech Czar Jim Nash and his fine crew and Wendy Roberts in the Davidson President’s Office and a special shout-out to my colleague Gary Bartholomew (!) and our great Davidson IT folks and all the wonderful and good-natured Davidson students who prepared questions, and our special guests from the community… The list goes on of folks who will be looking forward to welcoming Tom back to Earth and back to campus. Tom, we want to see you do all those same tricks on the stage at the Duke Family Performance Hall! In the meantime, we’re proud of you, we’re proud for you, and we wish you safe travels at 17,500 mph all the way home!