Meet NASA's first veterinary astronaut
Dr. Richard Linnehan, a North Carolina State adjunct professor served as guinea pig, construction crew and designated spacewalker during his time as a NASA mission
Tethered to a robot arm and hovering more than 350 miles above the Earth, Richard “Rick” Linnehan tried to whistle while he attached a new high-tech solar panel to the Hubble Space Telescope.
It was an impossible task: the low pressure of his NASA-issued spacesuit made it impossible for him to get anything out of his helmet-hindered pucker.
So he spent more than seven hours in silence on March 4, 2002, working with fellow astronaut John Grunsfeld to attach fancy new fold-out solar panels that gave the Hubble 30% more power to see deep into the universe.
It was the first ever spacewalk for the veteran NASA veterinarian, who served as both a guinea pig, construction crew and designated spacewalker during his time as a NASA mission specialist. He eventually went on four shuttle missions, spent more than 59 days in space and set the NASA record with more than 42 hours in extravehicular activity (spacewalks). He made three shuttle trips on Columbia (1996, 1998 and 2002) and one on Endeavor (2008).
He once conducted a class for NC State CVM from the European Space Agency’s Spacelab on Columbia and, on the last of his four shuttle missions, helped in the construction of the International Space Station where three-time NC State graduate Christina Hammock Koch is currently on a year-long mission.
How, you may ask, did a dolphin doc go to space? Linnehan, NASA’s first ever veterinarian, has answered that question thousands of times.
“I was lucky,” he says.
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