From UNH to NASA: Astronaut Lee Morin given Distinguished Alumni Award

Union Leader Correspondent
September 28. 2017 8:19PM
Astronaut Lee Morin talks at UNH Thursday about how the cockpit of space exploration vehicles must be easy to control in case of emergency. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

DURHAM — NASA astronaut Lee Morin was recognized with the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences’ Distinguished Alumni Award Thursday at the University of New Hampshire.

The 65-year-old Manchester native, who graduated in 1974 with a degree in mathematical and electrical sciences, said his message for today’s students is to keep an open mind.

“There is life after UNH, and there are all sorts of opportunities you might not have expected,” Morin said in an interview in between presentations at Holloway Commons.

Morin, whose father was a diplomat with the Department of State, lived overseas for a portion of his childhood, but said he has always felt a strong connection to the Granite State.

Since both of his parents attended UNH in the 1940s, when it came time for him to go to college, they urged him to consider studying at the Durham campus.

“UNH was a really great fit for me,” Morin said. “I really felt nurtured at UNH.”

Morin explained that after getting his bachelor of science degree, he earned a master’s degree in biochemistry from New York University. In 1981, Morin earned a doctorate degree from New York University School of Medicine.

Morin joined the Navy and served as a medical officer and naval flight surgeon before leaving active duty to enter private practice. He was still in the reserves with the Marine Corps when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Morin was recalled to active duty during Operation Desert Shield and was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., as a flight surgeon.

Morin was eventually selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in April of 1996, and he reported to the Johnson Space Center that August at the age of 43.

The training was mentally and physically exhausting, but Morin said he had the support he needed to get through it.

“They had the attitude of, ‘We have selected you and you are here. We will train you to succeed,’” Morin said.

From Nov. 8 to 19 in 2002, Morin was on the STS-110 Atlantis, the 13th space shuttle mission to the International Space Station.

Morin, who has logged more than 259 hours in space, is currently assigned to the exploration branch at NASA.

He is leading the rapid prototyping of the cockpit for the new Orion spacecraft.

Morin said that in June of 2022, a crew of four will be taking the spacecraft farther away from Earth than any other human has gone before.

According to NASA, their current work will lead to humans going to Mars in the 2030s.

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