Cheney Native Eagerly Awaiting First Shuttle Flight
FOR THE RECORD (June 24, 1997): Misquoted: Brenda Danielly was misquoted in a Monday story about her brother, an astronaut who grew up in Cheney. The correct quote is “Back when we used to play with Barbie dolls Mike would build futuristic moon homes for them.”
Even before he learned his ABCs, Michael Anderson knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.
He decided when he got his first toy airplane at age 3 that he wanted to fly - in outer space.
“I used to watch shows like ‘Lost in Space’ and ‘Star Trek,’ and that led me to a desire to live out those fantasies,” said Anderson, 37, an astronaut who grew up in Cheney and who now lives in Houston.
Anderson’s sister, Brenda Danielly, 33, of Spokane, remembers being beamed up to her brother’s personal space shuttle - the top bunk bed - every Saturday morning for an imaginary trip to the moon when Michael was 8 years old.
“Back when he used to play with Barbie dolls, Mike would build futuristic moon homes for them,” Danielly said.
When he was 9, he watched the first landing on the moon and began memorizing the names of all the famous astronauts, such as Apollo 16 commander John Young, the 10th man to walk on the moon.
Young was the first astronaut Anderson met when he started work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“It seemed unreal to meet one of my childhood superheroes,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s childhood dream is expected to be realized in January when he is scheduled to make his first extraterrestrial odyssey.
Anderson and his crew mates are to shuttle to the Russian space station Mir on a rendezvous mission to transfer supplies, relieve the American astronauts already on board and continue to conduct experiments.
The experiments will examine the effects of space on aquatic life and other biological systems to gain a better understanding of how space affects human physiology.
There have been six American missions involved with Mir so far. Anderson’s will be the eighth.
“This gives me a sense of accomplishment,” Anderson said during a telephone interview from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Since I was a kid, I had a design to get here and do this.”
That “design” was set in motion at Cheney High School when Anderson began bulking up on math and science classes.
At the University of Washington, Anderson dedicated most of his time to studying. During four years that led to a bachelor’s degree in physics, he remembers going to only two movies.
The summer after Anderson finished college, he still studied the sciences for at least four hours per day, recalled his mother, Barbara Anderson.
“He said it was a habit he developed,” his mother said. “Most people want downtime. Not Michael. He loves to have something to strive for.”
Even now, when he comes home from work, he plays with his kids, then heads to his office to hit the books.
Anderson said he doesn’t have any regrets about the time he has invested in his career.
“If it’s something you enjoy, you don’t think of it as a sacrifice,” he said.
Working up to 16 hours per day, studying shuttle systems and rehearsing experiments, Anderson has been preparing for his mission since last winter.
“It takes a year to get ready, and that is not a long time,” he said. “Everything we do has to be clockwork.”
Anderson will be the mission specialist for the five-man crew. He will monitor shuttle systems and direct actions in case of an emergency.
Anderson is one of a handful of African American astronauts. While he finds it rewarding to serve as a role model when speaking at schools and encouraging students to excel in math and science, he said his race has little to do with his job.
“It’s just me doing what I wanted to do,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Trouble aboard the space station