Mike Gernhardt’s career epitomizes the scientific overlap between the depths of the ocean and Outer Space. A NASA astronaut, Gernhardt started his career as a professional diver and engineer on subsea oil field construction and repair projects around the world.
As a child, Gernhardt vacationed in Florida, where he developed a love of the ocean. Like many children, Gernhardt dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But unlike most kids, he stuck with his dream, and began taking steps to pursue it in high school, when, in his own words, he “had already put together that working in space and in the sea were similar.”
Gernhardt received his undergraduate degree in physics from Vanderbilt University, followed by his Master’s and Ph.D.—both in bioengineering—from the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked with his life-long mentor C.J. Lambertson, who is considered to be one of the godfathers of diving medicine.
Under Lambertson, Gernhardt received unparalleled field work experience, testing real-time the decompression tables that he’d developed and which still constitute the oceaneering standard.
In 1992, Gernhardt was selected to be an astronaut at NASA, where he completed four space flights and walks. He also started a company called Oceaneering Space Systems, where he transferred his sub-sea robotics experience to NASA. In his own words, Gernhardt says, “There’s really a lot of synergy between working underwater and working in space, and the design of the task for human and robot compatibility.”
Gernhardt has received numerous awards and honors, including the highly coveted NASA Distinguished Service Medal. To view his bios: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_L._Gernhardt ; http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/gernhard.html