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    Where Few Have Gone Before: Army Surgeon Selected to NASA Space Program

    2017 Astronaut Class

    Courtesy Photo | 41-year-old NASA astronaut candidate Francisco Rubio waves as he is introduced as one...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Jorden Weir  

    10th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

    FORT CARSON, Colo. – How many lifetimes does it take to become a Soldier, pilot, doctor, and astronaut? For Maj. (Dr.) Francisco Rubio, the battalion surgeon assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), it only takes one.

    Rubio recently took his place as one of only 12 Americans selected to begin NASA astronaut candidate training in August, 2017.

    “It’s a dream come true,” Rubio said.

    Rubio’s dream began after getting a briefing on the NASA program during medical school more than a decade earlier. It was a dream that was never far from his mind. Then, in 2015, he saw his chance.

    “NASA posted a Facebook release that they were going to be taking applications,” he said.

    And with that, his journey to becoming an astronaut began.

    Rubio says he was a little daunted by the sheer number of applicants he was up against. This selection cycle saw more than 18,000 applications from all over the country, an unprecedented amount. Historically, the typical number of applicants is around 8,000.

    “If you’re picking 10 out of 8,000 or 18,000, the odds are pretty slim anyways,” said Rubio.

    During the selection process, Rubio reminded himself to temper his expectations.

    “Honestly, you don’t expect it,” he said, “even at the very end… mostly because you look at the people around you and you’re kind of amazed by them, too. You hope and hope, but you don’t really expect it.”

    As to what ultimately set Rubio apart from more than 18,000 other people, your guess is as good as his.

    “That’s the million-dollar question,” he said.

    He explained that, although he felt that personality and team work played a big part, it really all came down to what NASA needed at this particular time. He also pointed out the incredible diversity among all twelve selectees, and that there is no single thing that they share that sets them apart.

    One thing is for certain. Rubio is immensely qualified for the job.

    Rubio graduated West Point in 1998 and entered the Army, after which he became a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot, flying more than 1,100 hours over the course of eight years. Of those flight hours, more than 600 were combat or imminent danger flight hours during deployments to Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

    Rubio furthered his education and experience by attending and graduating from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland in 2006 and has served as an Army surgeon and physician since.

    Rubio is looking forward to the next step, beginning with his astronaut candidate training, which starts in August.

    The program is expected to last two years, during which time Rubio will take part in academically-rigorous training focusing on spacewalks, robotics, international space stations, rocket systems, flying jet aircrafts, and learning to speak Russian.

    “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.

    Rubio, who will retain his status in the Army and become just the third member of the Army Astronaut Corps, acknowledges that the road to space is still a long one for him. After he becomes an astronaut, it will still be another five-to-eight years before he actually has the chance to go into space. But he’s keeping his spirits high.

    “It’s going to be a really cool experience,” he said. “The most inspiring thing about it is that it’s almost universally supported in our country… you know you’re kind of inspiring other people.”

    In all, Rubio says he’s proud and humbled to represent the nation doing something this spectacular. When looking back at all he’s accomplished over the last nineteen years in the Army, he attributes his success to good fortune, good timing, and taking advantage of opportunities presented.

    “I’ve been incredibly blessed,” he said. “They [were] amazing opportunities… If it weren’t for the Army, I wouldn’t have had any of those opportunities. We’re in an organization that lets you succeed.”

    And as far as advice to Soldiers looking to better themselves, he says that the first and most important step is to apply.

    “There’s a lot of people that have dreams and hopes,” he said, “and they’ll talk about them, but sometimes they just don’t go through with finishing the application process. You never know unless you apply.”

    The second piece of advice is to prepare to learn from your mistakes.

    “As much as it sounds like I’ve had some great success,” he explained, “I’ve also had some failures and I’ve fallen on my face. And sometimes that’s the hardest part, and the part where you learn the most.”

    Embracing success and failure equally as just another part of the learning process has allowed Rubio to persevere and earn the accomplishments of several lifetimes.

    Now Rubio, already a soldier, already a pilot, and already a doctor, is on track to take his place as one of only 350 Americans ever to earn the title of astronaut.



    Date Taken: 06.15.2017
    Date Posted: 06.15.2017 15:22
    Story ID: 238087
    Location: FORT CARSON, CO, US 

    Web Views: 143
    Downloads: 1