Surgeon talks being one of 14 African American astronauts to travel into space

This Black History Month, we are highlighting history-making astronaut and cancer surgeon Dr. Bobby Satcher.  Before wearing the uniform, holding the title and taking a walk in space, it all started for Satcher as a childhood dream.

“When I was in third grade, we had to write this essay, and I wrote I wanted to be an astronaut and a surgeon,” Dr. Satcher laughs, but that is exactly what Dr. Satcher became—a surgeon and astronaut.

“I was able to go to the International Space Station and help with assembly of the station.  I was able to do two spacewalks.  All of which was a tremendous experience,” Dr. Satcher says.

Dr. Satcher flew to the ISS aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2009.

While Colonel Guy Bluford was the first African American in space in 1983 and Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African American female in space in 1992, Dr. Satcher has scored some firsts of his own.

“Probably the most famous first was being the first Orthopedic Surgeon, the first Oncologist to go into space. That was a fun first,” he smiles.

This MIT and Harvard Medical School grad is among an elite group of only 14 African Americans who have traveled to the great beyond. We caught up with the MD Anderson Cancer Center surgeon to talk "space" moments after he removed a tumor from a bone cancer patient's shoulder. 

“It's a privilege to be able to participate in taking care of people," Dr. Satcher says. 

If Dr. Satcher makes you want to ask “What in the world have I been doing with my life?”, you are not alone.  His achievements are pretty out of this world.  Dr. Satcher says he's glad to see diversity at NASA continuing to grow because for a while he points out, if you only met astronauts you would think Earth was filled with men, no women, who are all the same color.

“And that's a little weird if you think about it, because if there's some alien encountering astronauts back then, they would only see Caucasian males and then they look at the planet and it's like 'oh wait a minute,'” Dr. Satcher says.

NASA plans to send the next man and the first woman to the moon in less than four years, by 2024.  Jessica Watkins may be one them.  The African American female astronaut graduated into the program last month.

Dr. Satcher is anxious to see space exploration and medical breakthroughs reach amazing new heights.  “I also look forward to seeing more African American kids involved in space exploration and medicine”.

This amazing astronaut and surgeon says he wants kids to remember, "The only way you will certainly fail is if you don't try."

NASA will be accepting applications for new astronauts during the month of March.  The space agency says they are looking for diversity so astronauts adequately represent all Americans.

MORE: NASA looking to hire its next class of space explorers