LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - He's one of the few who have been out of this world. At the latest McNeese Banners Series astronaut Story Musgrave shared his experiences.
"The number 1 question I get about my career is - What's it like up there," said Musgrave.
Musgrave has been up there a lot. During his more than 30 year career with NASA he flew on six space missions and is the only one in the program to have flown on all the shuttles.
"I was on Challenger's first flight. The missions got better. A lot of people think the first one is gonna be I've been there done that and you are going to familiarize and lose some excitement. That's not the case. The missions get better because you get smarter about how to have a great experience," said Musgrave.
Musgrave's path to NASA was unconventional. According to his biography he was born in 1935 on a dairy farm in Stockbridge, MA. He was in the forests alone by age 3 and by 5 floated his homebuilt rafts on the rivers. He rode combines at 5, drove trucks and tractors at 10 when alone in remote fields, repaired them by 13.
Story never finished school, ran off to Korea with the U.S. Marines where he was an aircraft electrician and an engine mechanic.
"My early experience with being a mechanic helped me. It was a part of me so it came easy," said Musgrave.
He started flying with the Marines and over the next 55 years accumulated 18,000 hours in over 160 aircraft.
With the Shuttle Program officially retired Musgrave acknowledged there were challenges but said it was a huge success in establishing the United States as the frontrunner in space exploration.
"The shuttle did not turn out quiet how we expected it to. It was a lot more fragile, a lot more difficult to operate, a lot more expensive. But it did huge things and is considered a huge success," explained Musgrave.
He believes we should continue to invest in space exploration whether it be back to the moon or further out to Mars.
"If we are going to go further out what you need to do is combine a robot with a human program. Send robots first and let them pull humans after. You let the robots explore the land, you let good robots establish how they are going to build a space program for materials from that planet. Just like our current space program comes from mother earth - it's built by earth materials. Well, you can build colonies out there, you can build habitats, you can build all that out there from the planet itself. Send robots there first," said Musgrave.
He admits his biggest accomplishment and highlight of his career was helping in the design and maintenance on the Hubble telescope, including a spacewalk to repair it.
"They told me in 1975 to start looking after that machine to identify every possible problem it could get into and come up with tools and procedures. I've been on Hubble for 37 years now, 37 years I've been working on that machine and looking after it," said Musgrave.
As Musgrave shared his stories with the Lake Area his message is simple: if a farm boy from Massachusetts can go into space - there's no reason you can't make your dreams come true.
"It's looking at life as some playing field. What are the rules of the game? How do I acquire the skills I need to get to the desired outcome I want. And it's forks in the road - people always ask me: 'Did you always want to be an astronaut?' I have to remind them in 1930s I didn't want to be an astronaut because there weren't any. Not in 40s or 50s... So space came to me - much later on. And based on all my experiences as a farm boy, mechanic, pilot prepared me for that challenge," said Musgrave.
Musgrave has reinvented himself over the years. Today he operates a palm farm in Orlando, Florida, a production company in Sydney, Australia and a sculpture company in Burbank, California.