Idaho Falls Native Instrumental in NASA Launch Despite Cancer

Reporter: Andrew Del Greco
May 3, 2007

Last week, NASA launched their first mission to the explore mysterious ice clouds on the edge of space. Not only was Idaho falls native Brandon Paulson a key component of some of NASA's projects, but he accomplished a lot of what he did while battling cancer.

Sherry Paulson remembers her son's love for science as a kid, particularly his passion for aircraft.

Sherry Paulson, Brandon's mother: "He'd get in trouble, I'd send him to timeout and next thing I know he'd have an airplane outside his room and he'd fly it down the hall, it'd say 'mom, I'm sorry.'"

A graduate of Idaho Falls High School, Brandon Paulson had big aspirations, obtaining a master's in mechanical engineering from Utah State University.

Sherry Paulson: "He was interested in working with Space Dynamic Laboratory in Logan, Utah, but later he would go to NASA to help with development and the projects they did."

Brandon managed projects for NASA, even building a sensor which could measure the dangerous buildup of electrical charges on the International Space Station.

He had a successful career, a loving wife and four children -- but his life would take a dramatic turn. After having a mole removed around 2000, he revisited his doctor five years later.

Sherry Paulson: "the doctor told him it was metastatic melanoma, they thought they had gotten all the cancer, that it hadn't gotten into his lymph nodes, but in fact it had."

At age 32, he underwent chemo and felt nauseous every day. Despite his condition, his father says Brandon continued his work on a satellite to study clouds in the coldest part of the atmosphere, gauging any relation to global warming.

Mark Paulson, Brandon's father: "We've learned something from his example, in spite of his adversity, he kept going, he wasn't gonna give up."

Sherry Paulson: "One lesson I learned from him, you just don't give up, that's why he's my hero."

In honor of him, his friends and co-workers inscribed his name on the rocket that will orbit earth for the next two years.

Mark Paulson: "When he got melanoma, the people at S.D.L. put together a schedule where they drove him to chemo and radiation therapy treatments and S.D.L. allowed their workers to use sick leave to do that, so they thought highly of him."

Sherry Paulson: "We're proud of him, we want people in Idaho Falls to know his good accomplishments, this is something that's gonna go on for a couple years and hopefully help with global warming."

Mark and Sherry Paulson say they don't believe there's enough information out in the public on melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

They would like people to be cautious of any moles or skin growths, because the sooner you are diagnosed, the better the chances for survival.

No one understands that more than the Paulson family.

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