Settling into the Marine Corps

The Marine Corps quickly introduced Story to the world of military aviation and technology. After training, he became an aviation electrician and instrument tech nician, and for a time worked as a plane captain while completing duty assignments in Korea, Japan and Hawaii, and aboard the carrier USS Wasp in the Far East. Musgrave's love of flying had remained with him, and he resumed his studies in order to get a pilot's licence. He began reading any technical manuals on aircraft that he could get his hands on, and this would lead to a lifetime appreciation of books and fine literature.

Eventually, Musgrave left the Marines in order to study mathematics and statistics at Syracuse University in New York State, and this is where he says he ''got into computers.'' As with biology in high school, his curiosity was aroused. ''This was in the early fifties, so it was vacuum tubes and ancient stuff back then, but computers got me interested in the nervous system, the brain, and how it works. I was in graduate school when Sputnik went up, and that's how I was introduced to space.'' It was at Syracuse that he met his first wife, Patricia Van Kirk from Patterson, New Jersey, who had recently transferred from Connecticut University to study nursing.

In 1958, Musgrave was employed as a mathematician and operations analyst for the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York, while he continued his studies at Syracuse. That same year, he was awarded his Bachelor of Science degree - the first in a string of many higher academic achievements. An MBA in operations analysis, business administration and computer programming from the University of California followed in 1959, then a BA in chemistry from Marietta College in 1960, and his Doctorate in medicine from Columbia University in 1964.

At Columbia's Presbyterian Medical Center, he had begun his own research into the nervous system under the tutelage of Dr. Dominick Purpura, and Musgrave now decided he would become a surgeon, ''not just to heal people, but because of a curiosity of what a human is, and what it means to be human.''

That same year he began a one-year surgical residency at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, eventually staying on for two years as both an Air Force post-doctoral and National Heart Institute Fellow, working in aerospace and space physiology, temperature regulation, exercise physiology and clinical surgery. He gained his Master's in physiology and biophysics from the university in 1966.

Deep interests in computers, physiology and the human brain all came together for Story Musgrave when he discovered that NASA was calling for applications from potential scientist-astronauts. A new door was being opened for him, and he applied, fully prepared to trade his ambitions of becoming a neurosurgeon for the prospect of one day working as a mission physician on flights to the Moon and Mars.

''Everything I'd ever done, I realised - every unknown path I took - was leading me to this. As soon as NASA expressed an interest in flying scientists, people with a formal education as well as being military pilots, that was an epiphany that just came like a stroke of lightning. I saw that everything I had ever done in life could be used in that endeavour. It just fit, and felt right.''

The numerous qualifications he had accrued nearly caused an early end to his plans. ''They almost didn't take me, because they said I was so over-trained that I might not be comfortable. Apart from everything else that I was doing in life I had about six earned degrees at that time, an active laboratory and a surgical practice, and was a commercial pilot, flight instructor and parachutist.''

He may have been over-trained and over-qualified in his opinion, but NASA recognised Musgrave's definite potential as a scientist-astronaut. His name eventually ended up on their list as one of the eleven selected.


Perhaps it was because he was small for his age that Brian O'Leary had a childhood fascination with things that he found extreme in any way: ''Lofty, large and long marvels, such as the highest mountains, the tallest buildings, the longest roads, and the biggest animals.'' It is a fascination with superlatives and the unexplained that still dictates his life's many directions, accomplishments and goals.18

Mary Mabel O'Leary was the first to convince her son that if he was looking for grandness, there was no greater immensity for a young lad than the night sky. Here, he would find massive planets, far distant galaxies, and gargantuan rotating stars billions and trillions of miles from Earth.

His schoolteachers at Chenery School, already impressed with his rapid proficiency at mathematics, happily encouraged him as he began to ask elementary questions about the solar system. In particular, his fourth grade teacher, Miss Perault, was an educator of considerable influence. ''She was an adventurer, pilot, etcetera, and it was just about that age I was getting turned on to space, which she was also excited about. She was a real inspiration.''

The influence of the heavens

The greatest influence of all, however, came one Tuesday night in 1948 when his parents took him to an open house at Harvard Observatory. It was the evening of 2 November, and the nation was gripped in a convoluted electoral fever. Early returns that night resulted in premature headlines declaring Thomas Dewey the winner of the presidential election - an announcement later rescinded in favour of Harry S. Truman, but the race for the White House paled into insignificance for one small boy. ''I was eight years old. I never had a telescope, but looking at Mars and Saturn through the one at the Harvard Observatory ... it thrilled me. I wanted to go to Mars, and from that point on it appeared inevitable I would become a planetary astronomer.''

In this way, a small boy from suburban Massachusetts was set on a determined course to those stars. Less than two decades later he would become NASA's only planetary scientist-astronaut in the heady days of the Apollo programme.

Brian Todd O'Leary was born in the residential suburb of Belmont, seven miles west of Boston, on 27 January 1940. The youngest son of Fred and Mary O'Leary had an older brother named Fred (Junior), then six, and a three-year-old sister, Judith. His father was a radio and electrical appliance sales manager for a distribution company.19

By the age of nine, the young enthusiast was trying to absorb all he could about astronomy and space travel, and took delight in reading about those subjects in Life and Colliers magazines. Anything written by the erudite German-born rocket

Brian T. O'Leary, PhD.

engineer, Dr. Wernher von Braun, was eagerly sought and lovingly pored over many times.

O'Leary's interest in astronomy, as well as his academic strengths, went right along with him as his education continued at Belmont High School. He recalls that, as a senior at Belmont High, he was required to write a long essay in history class on an important contemporary issue. While others concentrated on such issues as national security, communism, and the evils of tobacco, he did not have to give the subject matter much thought at all:

"I wrote my essay on space satellites. This was in 1956, one year before the launch of Sputnik I. At that time, the United States had started the Vanguard project, a programme intended to launch basketball-sized satellites into orbit. This gave me enough material for the essay, but I still recall the puzzlement with which the history teacher and class reacted to my choice of topic.''

The following year, Williams College presented fresh challenges, but O'Leary began to find the curriculum patently mundane. Despite his father's mounting concerns, he somehow managed to successfully follow through on a physics major. Unfortunately, he was now on a perilous educational slide. His previous love of mathematics had become moribund in the wake of more social activities; there was no longer any enthusiasm for his physics courses; and he began to rebel against authority. ''My attitude was carefree, in contrast to that of the majority of my fraternity brothers, who were seriously preparing for careers in law or medicine.'' Even the much-anticipated announcement that Russia had launched Earth's first artificial satellite failed to excite him.

Happily, his interest in planetary science and space technology was rekindled following his graduation from Williams in 1961 with his Bachelor of Arts degree in physics. A job had come his way at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center near Washington DC, and though this work was otherwise mundane and routine, the massive juggernaut of manned space exploration was inexorably under way. The public was swept up in all the excitement of this new technological age, and he was thrilled to simply be a part of it. ''I plotted graphs which predicted models for the response of a pressure gauge to the thin atmosphere surrounding a satellite - but I welcomed any opportunity to immerse myself into the space business, and there was no place better to do it than Goddard.''

His poor grades at Williams College now came back to haunt him as he endeavoured to gain entry into an astronomy graduate school. To his relief, he was finally accepted at Georgetown University, and over the next three years, his grades and his interest in astronomy soared. In July 1962, he took a short break from his studies to fly overseas and fulfil a long-held dream, as part of a small group that successfully climbed to the peak of one of his childhood superlatives - the mighty Matterhorn. He also took part in another gruelling personal challenge, finishing a twenty-six mile Boston Marathon with badly blistered feet.

Despite his high grades, he began to have serious fallings-out with the faculty, and a final confrontation led to his questionable and unfair dismissal from Georgetown. While disappointing, it was not an unexpected development, but it would ultimately prove extraordinarily beneficial to his life. O'Leary's dismissal from Georgetown only served to make him more determined than ever to continue his studies. While he wrote his Master's thesis on astronomy he also took on part-time work teaching high school mathematics, and in the midst of this, managed to find time to meet his future wife, Joyce. His hard work and long hours finally paid off in 1964 when he was accepted into graduate school at the University of California.

That summer, after he and Joyce were married, O'Leary took his new bride to the West Coast. Here, he found the university curriculum and teaching staff at the Berkeley campus a sublime change from those he had endured at Williams and Georgetown. This was quickly reflected in his superior grades and research, and in his published papers. These days, O'Leary credits much of his ultimate success to his thesis advisor and colleague, Donald Rea. ''He was a young research chemist, recently converted into a planetary scientist at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory. He was brimming over with ideas and had plenty of NASA money to spend.'' Under Rea's guidance and mentorship, O'Leary became a professionally recognised planetary astronomer.

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