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A Piece of MD Anderson Heads to Space

Conquest - Fall 2011

John Mendelsohn, M.D. (right), past president of 
MD Anderson, holds the piece of Georgia Etowah
marble that has traveled more than 5 million miles
into space and back. He and Raymond DuBois, M.D., 
Ph.D., receive the official NASA commemorative 
plaque from astronaut Tim Kopra.

Astronaut Honors Institution With Rare Opportunity

By Victor Scott

MD Anderson’s international reputation for fighting cancer helped launch a piece of the institution to the International Space Station earlier this year.

NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra, an Austin, Texas native, was assigned to fly to the space station aboard STS-133, the historic final mission of space shuttle Discovery. 

Prior to the mission, he had a tough decision to make.

“We have the opportunity as astronauts to fly items from different organizations,” says Kopra, who lost his father, a University of Texas professor for 35 years, to cancer.

“I wanted to find an organization that I thought really represented excellence in our ability to fight this dreaded disease.”

With the price of each ounce of cargo launched into space at a premium, Kopra was limited to flying 10 small items. He chose a piece of Georgia pink Etowah marble from MD Anderson’s original façade. 

But due to the weight of the marble, he was only allowed to pack one additional item for his mission.

Then, just days before launch, Kopra was injured in a bicycle accident and scrubbed from the mission. The marble left Earth without him, traveled more than 
5 million miles in space and made it home safely.

On April 19, Kopra proudly returned the historic piece of marble to MD Anderson to serve as inspiration in the mission to fight cancer. It will be displayed in the institutional awards display case in the Main Building, Floor 1, near The Fountain.

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