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Biofile: Michael Anderson Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

STATUS: NASA Astronaut and United States Air Force Officer.

DOB: December 25, 1959 In: Plattsburgh, NY

Died: Feb. 1, 2003

HOBBIES/INTERESTS: “Play tennis, play chess, photography, work on my car (a 1985 black Porsche 944).”

FAVORITE MOVIE: “One old film most people wouldn’t know, that I really liked was ‘To Sir With Love’ with Sidney Poitier. Great film.”

MUSICAL TASTES: “I’m an old traditional gospel fan. I like any real good choir. Also contemporary jazz, Earl Klugh, Acoustic Alchemy.”

ALL-TIME FAVORITE TV SHOW: “‘Lost In Space’. It’s like going back to my childhood when I see it now.”

FUNNY SPACE MEMORY: “On the STS-89 mission in 1998, we were about two days from undocking from MIR Station, in orbit about 220 miles from earth. One day we had some spare time. Myself and Joe Edwards decided to play with our food at zero gravity. We squirted out red and yellow balls of our drinks of lemonade and fruit juice. In space, they float around in a big ball. Of course, we then tried to drink them out of mid-air [smiles]. Some were softball-size, some were like golf balls. They were just floating there. If you were successful, you could drink it without a straw…through suction out of the side. But we had varying degrees of success [laughs].”

PRE-BLAST-OFF FEELING: “Wow. For me, it’s a feeling of reflection. Reflect on all the things that it took to get to that point. All the help from other people. All the hard work on my part. All the obstacles and hurdles I overcame.”

GREATEST MOMENT OF CAREER: “I have to say reaching space the first time. When the main engines cut off and you go from the force of acceleration to the zero gravity of space. And everything starts to float. And that moment, you realize you made it to space. That’s a very proud moment for every astronaut. [This mission was the eighth shuttle-MIR docking mission during which the crew transferred more than 9,000 lbs. of scientific equipment, logistical hardware and water from Space Shuttle Endeavor to MIR.]”

FIRST CAR: ’71 light blue Ford Pinto

FIRST JOB: “Cutting and raking up neighbors grass for a few dollars. In Wichita Falls, TX (age 10).”

CHILDHOOD DREAM: “I only had one dream and ambition…to be an astronaut. I guess I was inspired by TV shows like ‘Lost In Space’ and my natural curiosity and interest in space.”

FAVORITE MEAL: “A good dish of spaghetti with tomato sauce. Real simple.”



MOST TREASURED POSSESSION: “You won’t believe this, in a sentimental way, it’s my old Hewlett Packard calculators that got me through high school, college and grad school. I don’t use them anymore but I have a special fondness for them.”

PEOPLE QUALITIES MOST ADMIRED: “I admire people who put aside personal comfort and dedicate their lives to serving others. People who go to places where other people don’t want to go, who do things that aren’t very easy to do. In providing service to other people.”

Family: Wife, Sandra; daughters, Kaycee, Sydney.

EDUCATION: BA Univ. of Washington (Physics/ Astronomy); MS Creighton Univ (Physics).

Anderson and his six fellow crew members were killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster of 2003 when the craft disintegrated during its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Anderson served as the payload commander and lieutenant colonel in charge of science experiments on the Columbia. Anderson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

(Note: You may wonder how I ever encountered an astronaut to do a Biofile. I was curious to do a Biofile with an astronaut back in 1999 so I called NASA and they were kind enough to set it up. – SM)

NASA feature on Michael Anderson

About Mark Malinowski