"It really intrigued me," she says. "They were the coolest pictures."
Those clandestine viewings spawned an interest in science that has taken Cagle to the highest heights. On Aug. 12, Cagle, 37, was among 35 astronaut candidates who began a 1 1/2-year-long training program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The 25 mission specialists and 10 pilot candidates were chosen from more than 2,400 applicants.
"I still can't get over the fact that I was chosen," says Cagle. "I was holding my breath and it felt like time stopped when I found out."
A native of West Point, N.Y., whose parents both served in the Air Force (her mother handled flight records), Cagle spent four years in Japan, more time in upstate New York and then moved to Novato, Calif., when she was in third grade. She stayed pretty close to home when she went to college, getting a degree in biochemistry at San Francisco State. She then came to the UW for medical school receiving her M.D. in 1985. Along the way, she participated in the UW's innovative WAMI program, spending time with physicians in Alaska and downtown near Pike Place caring for underserved populations. She credits her time in the WAMI program with giving her a full appreciation for the field of family medicine, "and the comprehensive view of the family unit and the continuity of care--knowing a family and growing up with them."
Cagle, whose medical school tuition was paid for by an Air Force scholarship, then spent several years with the military doing her payback time, eventually landing at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas, where she not only became a certified flight surgeon but enrolled in the aeromedicine program. In 1989, she served as the medical liaison for the Air Force and NASA in developing a contingency landing site for the space shuttle, and that started her thinking about space. Having flown on all sorts of planes--and serving with the Air Force in the Gulf War--she applied for a precious slot as an astronaut.
She has been working at the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic at the NASA Johnson Space Center, where she is an occupational medicine physician. When NASA officials asked her what it would take for her to leave the job she loves at the clinic, she replied, "A strawberry sundae or to go into space."
"We can't do anything about the sundae," they told her, "but we can about the second."
August was quite a month for Cagle. Nine days before reporting for NASA training, she was married to Darrell Safford, who works in investment real estate. "He's in land, and I'm in space," she says.
"My time at the UW really got me to this place," she says. "My training there has paid off time and time again. I will be forever grateful."--Jon Marmor
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