Retired NASA astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave talks about his incredible career; kids in need in Central Kentucky celebrate their birthdays with the help of Sweet Blessings; the American dream of home ownership comes true through the work of HOMES Inc. in Whitesburg.
Astronaut Story Musgrave
Few humans will ever have the chance to visit space, and even fewer will leave the earth as many times as Dr. Franklin Story Musgrave. Dr. Musgrave, who goes by Story, flew on six spaceflights during his career as an astronaut, and is the only person to have flown aboard all five space shuttles.
Although he spent his early life in Massachusetts, Musgrave calls Lexington, Kentucky, his hometown.
“I came here [to the University of Kentucky] for my surgical training, internship and residency,” he says. “During my surgical training, that’s when NASA and the national academy said, we’re going to come up with a program to fly formally trained scientists. I said, ‘that’s me!’”
Space travel isn’t without its risks. But for astronauts like Musgrave, the mission is worth it.
“Story is just one of these people that has I think a very clear sense of his mission, of what he wants to do,” says Kris Kimel, co-founder and chairman of Space Tango. “I think all the stories I’ve heard of him really are about his dedication, his being courageous, and just wanting to reach out and do as much as he possibly can.”
For Musgrave, courage comes from an analytical place.
“It’s statistics of the risk,” he explains. “And so I don’t call it fear. I objectify fear. I’ve got the numbers. I’ve got the sense of statistics, and so my fear is a little different. It’s a statistical fear.
“While I’m sitting there [in the shuttle] waiting to go, it’s more a risk than I’d like. I’m not a risk-taker. So I’ve been trying to do the factors. I’m trying to control the outcome… If you’ve done your homework, then the mission itself, you’re gonna pull off. You’ve rehearsed it enough, you’ve identified the factors, and you’ve had a chance to rehearse it enough to be able to pull it off. You’re going to run into a few surprises; hopefully not too many.”
As a scientist and a physician, Musgrave found the zero-gravity environment of space to be a fascinating environment for exploration.
“You were evolved here for four billion years and you were not evolved to be continuously in the free fall environment,” says Musgrave. “A lot of funny stuff happens and I explore all of those possibilities. I’m the only one that sleeps in free fall. If it’s dark, you don’t even know where the spacecraft is around you. You can’t get a perfect drop, and so there’s a little bit of motion. But with every single joint in a totally neutral position, cause it’s just resting, you lose track. You lose track of your limbs your legs and your arms. It’s totally getting lost. For me this is a delicious thing to do.”
For all of his space travels, Musgrave remembers one experience down on earth as among the most profound of his time with the space program. He was watching the Apollo 11 landing from the visitors’ section of mission control, standing next to the CEO of the company that produced the lander.
“I said, ‘Sir, let’s go out in the parking lot…and he’s looking at me, like, well I’ll just see what this man wants,” Story remembers. “So we go out in the parking lot and he looks up and he says, ‘Story. There’s the moon. Story, do you know, there’s people on that thing we’re looking at?’ I say, ‘Yes sir. We can go back in now.’ Then it dinged on him that I wanted to go outside and just look at the moon and the standard kind of way, not a TV in mission control.
“That was the key moment then, to look at the moon. There’s people on that thing.”
Every child should be made to feel special on his or her birthday. That’s the philosophy behind Sweet Blessings, a Lexington-based organization that bakes, decorates, and delivers birthday cakes to kids who are living in poverty, have a life-threatening illness, or have special needs.
Sweet Blessings’ cakes are no ordinary confections. Kids are nominated by school counselors or social workers, and the nominators give some background info on the kids’ favorite things. This allows the Sweet Blessings team to design a custom cake featuring something that the recipient really loves, like a favorite movie, book, or video game character.
Berma Matthews has lived in the same house in Letcher County for almost her entire life.
“The house today is 68 years old,” says Matthews. “We moved in it in 1951. My mother and dad and one brother. The original house was four rooms. I’ve lived here all of my life except for a couple of times I moved away for a year or so, but I always came back home. It’s home.”
Maintaining an old house like Matthews’ requires work and money to remain a safe and comfortable place to live.
“I needed repairs on my home and I really didn’t know what to do, where to go,” says Matthews. She wanted to update to a more efficient heating system, which required additional updates like new windows and insulation. “I had heard about HOMES, of course. Just on a whim I went in their office one day and talked to them and it worked out and I was able to get a whole lot of repairs done on my home, made it considerably warmer and drier and safer with the work that they did.”
HOMES, Inc. is an organization based in Whitesburg, Kentucky, that helps ensure that people in the area have safe places to live, whether that’s through assisting with necessary updates to an older home, like in Matthews’ case, or building new structures from the ground up.
“We pride ourselves in trying to do the most for the least,” says HOMES Inc. executive director Seth Long. “To help families get the biggest bang for the buck. Whether that’s a new home, whether it’s a rental unit that’s affordable to them, whether it’s a new roof on the house that they already own.”
Wendy Lucas had to leave her old house as it gradually became unsafe for habitation.
“It was built on a hillside and it was a wooden foundation,” Lucas explains. “Over time, that foundation started to give and to rot and it started to move. Your sheet rock will crack and then your floors will start warping a little bit, so it was just putting money into something that was never going to be right from the get-go. I’m a single mom putting my daughters through college. I’m a preschool teacher so I’m lower income. I wanted a safe, quality home to raise them in and to give them a future.”
Thanks to HOMES, Lucas is getting a brand new three-bedroom house for herself and her daughters that is located near her parents’ home.
“Home, it’s just where you know you have your kids, your family, you relax,” says Lucas. “You’re you. You can have a house anywhere, but if it don’t feel comfortable and if you don’t have your loved ones, it’s just not home.”