Local doctor, astronaut discusses importance of SpaceX Launch
BATON ROUGE- For the first time in nearly a decade, NASA astronauts will blast to space from the historic launchpad in Florida. For one local doctor and astronaut, this is an exceptionally special time.
Dr. Serena Aunon-Chancellor wears a lot of hats.
"I consider myself a lot of things. Physician, an astronaut, and a number of things in between," she said.
In fact, she put on a space helmet to go to space just a couple of years ago.
"I flew to the space station June 6 of 2018, spent 197 days in orbit and came home December 20," Dr. Aunon-Chancellor said.
Initially planned to launch May 27 and postponed due to weather, Dr. Aunon-Chancellor says this is an extra important event for the United States as it is the first time launching Americans from American soil in an American vehicle since 2011.
She values the importance of performing scientific research in zero-gravity.
"What I want people to know is the science we do onboard the space station, especially the life science, is for their health down here on the planet. We don't do medical science up there just to keep us safe on the way to mars. We look at cancer, chemotherapy treatments; we look at Parkinson's disease and new drugs to treat Parkinson's disease; we look at muscle atrophy; even retinal implants and how to better design those."
While she's been back on Earth, she has been working at the LSU Health Sciences Center here in Baton Rouge--most recently, helping fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Life during the coronavirus outbreak has made her draw some interesting parallels to her life as an astronaut.
"Now everybody in America, certainly across the globe, knows what that's like to have to stay at home and really kind of lock yourself indoors, so you don't get any high-risk exposure or risk getting sick."
Quarantining--a natural part of preparing to go into space--and something the astronauts on the SpaceX flight are just coming out of.
"Bob and Doug have been in quarantine for almost 3 weeks leading up to this launch and that's to prevent them from getting ill or bringing a virus like coronavirus to the space station."
Aunon-Chancellor hopes the partnership with SpaceX and NASA and a successful launch will enable Americans to go into space more often to continue their important research.