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Famous Hoosiers in Space: Part 1


With our recent travels to NASA Ames, I was inspired to honor our Hoosier astronauts in a two-part blog post. I hope you enjoy them…and maybe even learn a little.

Believe it or not, the state of Indiana has ties to 30 astronauts.

One of these Hoosiers actually graduated from the Indiana School of Medicine.  David Alexander Wolf graduated high school at North Central in Indianapolis and went on to receive a degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University before earning his medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine. While in school, Wolf worked as a research scientist, pioneering novel medical ultrasonic image processing techniques.

Wolf completed his medical internship at Methodist Hospital, but was clearly drawn to a unique niche of medicine. He served as a United States Air Force flight surgeon for the National Guard from 1983 to 2004, logging more than 2,000 hours of flight time. Wolf’s strong background in both engineering and medicine also propelled him to join NASA in 1983 under the Medial Sciences Division. While there, he developed the American Flight Echocardiograph that monitors cardiovascular physiology in space.

Wolf’s success in this project led him to role of chief engineer for design of the Space Station Medical Facility. This complex facility is still operational today and one of the core biotechnology research facilities of the International Space Station. His work integrated telemedicine, tissue engineering and bioinstrumentation, to name a few. Wolf is credited in part with the successful transfer of the use of the bioreactor. This device allows scientists to grow tissue, cancerous tumors and viruses outside of the body and is used by private industry, in space and in academic laboratories like ours. We will be using an updated version of the bioreactor in our in vitro studies now scheduled for February 2017.

As Wolf’s stature within the organization grew, so did his desire to travel to space. He was selected as an astronaut in 1990 and became qualified for flight in 1991. Wolf flew on a total of five shuttle flights. In 1993, he was part of the crew for the STS-58 Columbia, a Spacelab life sciences research mission. This flight looked at a variety of medical consequences of microgravity on human physiology including cardiovascular, metabolic and, our favorite, musculoskeletal.

David Wolf was a pioneer in his field of work, and certainly helped pave the way for what we do in our lab on a daily basis. We are proud to claim him as a Hoosier through and through.

Written by Kishan

“Astronaut Bio: David. A. Wolf (01/2013).” Astronaut Bio: David. A. Wolf (01/2013). National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2013. Web. 03 June 2015.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Carl Pinkham