The Colgate Scene
May 2000
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An astronaut lands
by John D. Hubbard

Meal times provided students and faculty members an opportunity for informal conversation with Story Musgrave. Here, Musgrave addresses Ron Hoham's biology class.

Musgrave speaks about his role with Mission to Mars with students in John Knecht's film class.

Story Musgrave answers a student's question following his seminar on the Hubble Space Telescope.

A Phi Delt greeting

Story Musgrave H'99 delivered plenty of the right stuff during a jam-packed two-and-a-half-day visit in March.

     The multidimensional Musgrave -- spacewalker, surgeon and artist -- gave the Wolk Heart Foundation lecture. Mike Wolk '60, who endows the series, and Musgrave were classmates at Columbia Medical School and have kept in touch. They most recently got together at the commencement exercises for the Class of 1999 where the astronaut was awarded an honorary degree.

     "I joined the Colgate family just this last year," Musgrave told his audience before showing "a bunch of images that capture space and why we explore it."

     By the time he showed his photographs, Musgrave had already endeared himself to Colgate and the community. He began his visit by meeting with a group of middle school girls who are starting a 4-H science club. He encouraged them to explore their natural surroundings and to learn all they could about their world.

     Monday morning found Musgrave, who had served as a consultant on the Brian De Palma movie Mission to Mars, talking with Professor of Art and Art History John Knecht's film production class.

     "Is it possible with film technology to reproduce what you experience in space? Yes. If you want to go beyond, then you're into even more creative stuff. I was not as much of a realist as the film team. A total literal interpretation prevents viewers from using their imaginations," said Musgrave, who was missing the world premiere to be at Colgate.

     "I make an art out of everything -- an art of having a maximum experience." He likened his repair work on the Hubble Space Telescope to ballet and invoked the notion of choreography throughout his stay when speaking of his some 60 days in space.

     "You have to be perfect in the moment. If you are, the result will take care of itself. It's the journey that counts. If you don't have passion for the journey, you better think about something else."

     Musgrave's own journey was eventful. He had lunch at Phi Delta Theta (he was a Phi Delt at Syracuse), then attended classes in planetary astronomy and life in the universe before meeting with Dean of the Faculty Jane Pinchin and, later, Kiko Galvez, chair of the physics and astronomy department. He had dinner with six faculty members.

     "Art is pushing its way out of me," Musgrave had told the film class on the third floor of the Dana Arts Center. Indeed, the title of his Wolk Lecture was "The spirit of space flight: an artist's view of the universe." The evening began with a photograph of a young boy squatting on the shoreline raptly staring at the sand in his cupped hands.

     "Curiosity is one particular type of passion and one way of understanding the universe. Passion propels you along the road of curiosity," Musgrave told yet another class, the students in Ron Hoham's plant evolution class.

     The Wolk lecture, which was really a slide show, moved fairly quickly through the technical aspects of spaceflight to the aesthetics of what have to be the ultimate aerial photos. Musgrave ran through breathtaking views of coastlines and mountain ranges and on to more abstract views of deserts and dunes.

     For his final appearance, Musgrave gave the most technical talk of his visit during a physics and astronomy seminar, focusing on the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission. Still, he never strayed too far from the farm boy who learned as a nine-year-old to fix the tractors he rode across remote fields. With arresting directness Musgrave told tales from deep space and what it took to get there.

     "If you play one perfect note, that's enough," he had said. Asked when he had played his, Story Musgrave said he hadn't yet. It will be something when he does.

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