Outer Space with David Wolf in Muncie IN

Retired Hoosier Astronaut thrills adults, youth alike

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - Retired shuttle astronaut David Wolf took a wrong turn to get to Muncie, but he never got lost during his 4,040 hours in space.

Wolf, a medical doctor and electrical engineer with more than a dozen patents, informed and enlightened adults and youth alike with his great adventures and no holds barred talk about America's space program that has been on hiatus since the shuttle program was scuttled in 2011.

"The Russians own us," said Wolf, ending a talk with members of the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce Thursday morning.

The United States pay millions for a ride to the International Space Station and Wolf predicted it might be three more years before a commercial shuttle service evolves from private business and industry.

Wolf was among the last  NASA's shuttle astronauts and was among those who trained in Russia at the fabled Star City space center, and even learned Russian, going on to spend 128 days aboard the space station Mir. in 1997-98.

But his most treasured memory of space was those seven space walks where he repaired and installed equipment on the space station. And Wolf always loved to look down at Earth in its purist form without borders or conflicts.

Those were the same words that compelled Wolf as a youth to fly and go to space. He heard that epic speech from the late President John F. Kennedy who launched the Mercury space program that continued to two-man Gemini and Apollo Moon missions. 

Wolf talked about how most of the space disasters from the Apollo fire that killed fellow Hoosier astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee to the O ring failure of the Challenger explosion could have been prevented except for the space administration culture and continued budget cuts that caused faulty equipment.

"It was always that push for excellence," said Wolf, that pushed the space program to the brink and now on hold after the shuttle program ended.

For Wolf, his expertise was in engineering and medical applications. He received awards for his work in medical ultrasonic signal and image processing and three-dimensional tissue engineering technologies.

One of his biggest challenges was learning Russian to work at the Mir station and also assist with medical and engineering work there.

Learning and dealing with the effects of zero gravity and space also help aid medical research for a variety of conditions, he said. Even on a space mission, an astronaut can lose bone and muscle density and reduced body function 

Some the advice Wolf offered in his experience in space was that people must control the environment as climate change seems to provide more deadly and violence weather.

And those big telescopes like Hubble and Keplershow as many as 300 or 400 planets just beyond Earth's universe that can sustain life.

"In the long run, it is he ability for the human race to survive," Wolf said.

 Wolf lives in Indianapolis and helps out at the Indianapolis Children;s Museum where his DVD of  the space program and talk are popular. He graduated from North Central High School and got medical and engineering degrees from Indiana and Purdue.