July 26, 2015
2 min read

Space Needs Doctors, Too

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Attention all you science fiction geeks: Remember Dr. McCoy on the original Star Trek series? His “I’m just a country doctor,” protestations to his captain, uttered while on a spaceship hurtling through the known universe, became a catchphrase to legions of delighted viewers. Maybe Kjell Lindgren, MD, was one of those viewers, because he’s the latest doctor to launch into space, aboard NASA’s Expedition 44/45.

Lindgren wanted to be an astronaut from an early age, and at 11 decided the best way to achieve his goal was to attend the Air Force Academy. Not surprisingly, the Academy rejected the 11-year-old applicant.  But to get into the astronaut training program that eventually allowed him to travel in space, Lindgren applied along with 3564 other applicants, only nine of whom were eventually allowed to participate in the training. As Lindgren told a reporter from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, his med school alma mater: “I’m inspired by the opportunity to explore, to experience the Earth and moon from a unique perspective. I’m excited about conducting science. Ultimately, I’m excited to be part of a team that is extending our presence and capabilities in low-Earth orbit and beyond.”

Dr. Kjell Lindgren, bottom left

Lindgren is hardly the first physician to be an astronaut; Wikipedia lists forty (not counting Bones McCoy and others in the sci fi world). But he’s the most recent to launch—on July 22—and he’s going to be spending five months at the International Space Station.

Dr. Lindgren’s background makes him uniquely qualified to be a citizen of space, as he is already very much a citizen of the world. Born in Taipei, and educated in England and the U.S., Dr. Lindgren speaks English, Russian, and Chinese.

He earned his doctorate of medicine degree from the University of Colorado, and is board certified in emergency and aerospace medicine. When he was selected to the astronaut corps in 2009, he was serving NASA as a deputy crew surgeon. After two further years of NASA training and evaluation, he was assigned technical duties in the Spacecraft Communicator and Extravehicular Activity branches. The role he’s currently assigned to for the expedition—his first trip into space—is flight engineer.

When Dr. Lindgren isn't orbiting the planet, he lives in Houston with his wife and three children. He enjoys running, SCUBA diving, reading, movies, photography, amateur astronomy, working with computers, and church activities. He will be able to run in space, on a specially-designed treadmill called COLBERT (after comedian Stephen Colbert).

You can follow Dr. Lindgren on Twitter to learn more about his experiences in space. His Twitter handle is @astro_kjell, and his Twitter description is:  “Space nerd in paradise. Currently orbiting planet Earth on the International Space Station. Follow along as I learn to fly!”

We’ll definitely be following.