A member of NASA’s Astronaut Group 16, Yvonne Cagle was previously a graduate of Novato High with an abiding interest in astronomy. She became an Air Force colonel and a physician certified in aerospace medicine before training as an astronaut and now works with NASA on issues faced by astronauts during their long stays in space. Cagle returns to Novato on August 4 for the Novato Space Festival, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
What made you want to become an astronaut?
Watching the Apollo 11 moon landing awakened my interest in space. When I was about 13 years old, my first interest was in astronomy. I was given a school assignment to interview someone interesting, so I chose an astronomy professor and was fascinated by his work.
What is special about the Space Festival?
The Space Station Museum’s Novato Space Festival brings in space and science exhibitors from all over the Bay Area and the U.S., including NASA. I am there every year and am amazed by all the enthusiasm of the community and participants.
Do you think the U.S. should go back to the moon or focus on Mars?
We plan to go to Mars … by being prepared. To be well prepared for the new horizon of manned interplanetary exploration, NASA will retrace its steps to the closest replica of the red planet humanity has access to, our own moon. So we’re going back to the moon in 2024.
How were you inspired by Katherine Johnson, whom you escorted onto the stage of the 89th Academy Awards for Hidden Figures?
What makes Katherine so extraordinary is she not only prevailed while segregation failed but has continued to persevere and thrive with the gracious poise and clarity that defy mere words of explanation, let alone definition.