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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2019

BAMC hosts live chat with Army’s first doctor in space

By Elaine Sanchez Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

With the holiday season at hand, the first Army doctor in space expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve his nation as a Soldier and a NASA astronaut during his live, in-flight interview with more than 250 staff members, patients and family members Nov. 27 at Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.

Col. Andrew Morgan, formerly assigned to BAMC as an emergency physician, arrived at the International Space Station July 20, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Morgan will spend more than six months conducting about 350 science investigations.

Weightless and with a big smile, Morgan opened the interview by expressing his admiration for the hospital in which he served.

“It is an honor to have Brooke Army Medical Center, the gold standard in military trauma and burn care, aboard the International Space Station with me,” said Morgan, who then displayed an organization T-shirt and set a BAMC coin spinning in zero gravity to huge cheers and applause.

“I’m 100 percent a product of military education, from my undergraduate to my medical school to my residency training to my tactical and operational training,” Morgan said.

“I first made the decision to become a Soldier, and then a physician and then later an astronaut. I made decisions in that order for a reason,” he said. “I wanted to serve my country; I wanted to serve as a physician to Soldiers. Everything I have brought to the table as an astronaut is a result of that experience.”

Morgan discussed virtual medicine and the unique challenges associated with space.

“As we explore deeper and deeper into space, and as we return to the moon as part of the Artemis program and then eventually on Mars, the capability of telemedicine and ability to evacuate a patient are going to become more and more difficult. I think the role of a physician as part of the crew will become more critical.”

When asked, Morgan noted the ISS is traveling at 17,500 miles with an orbital altitude of 250 miles “straight up.”

“We orbit the Earth every 90 minutes and see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes,” he said. “It’s a spectacular view both day and night.”

Six-year-old Fiona Bell asked how the Earth looks from space.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “Day and night it’s beautiful. At night we see the cities light up the ground.”

Morgan also responded to a question about his current series of space walks, to include one scheduled for Dec. 2.

“We are in the middle of a series of space walks to fix the payload on the outside of the space station called the alpha magnetic spectrometer, which is an instrument that is going to help us understand the origins of the universe, to oversimplify a bit. It has a failing thermo pump.”

The next spacewalk will involve Morgan and his colleague installing the pump and connecting it to the payload, he noted.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, 10-year-old Madeline Bell asked the astronaut what he was most thankful for. 

“I’m most thankful for the opportunity to serve my country in this way,” Morgan said without hesitation. “When I was 18 years old I made the decision to become a Soldier. I view my time here on the International Space Station as a continuation of that service. I’m not only serving my country, but serving the international community as part of the International Space Station program.”

Despite a career that’s moved at warp speed and unparalleled accomplishments, Morgan said his greatest achievement is his time as a military doctor.

“The greatest honor of my life was serving in combat, serving Soldiers, wounded warriors. Nine months in space will not change how I view how important that was and crucial it was to my experience as a military medical officer.”

Morgan concluded by underscoring his community ties.

“Joint Base San Antonio, the San Antonio community, the San Antonio military community, Fort Sam Houston, Brooke Army Medical Center, all have been part of my life for decades. It’s been my honor to represent you up here.”