Johnson Space Center, Houston
Chicago Native Helping NASA Return to the Moon and Beyond
HOUSTON – Nearly 40 years after watching the first men on the moon parade down Michigan Avenue, Chicago native Dr. Rick Scheuring is helping send a new generation of explorers to the moon. Today, the Ridgewood High School track and field alumnus is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of future moonwalkers for NASA’s Constellation Program.
Constellation is building the spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and return humans to the moon by 2020, as a stepping-stone to Mars and beyond. America’s new space fleet that will launch after the shuttle retires includes the Orion crew exploration vehicle, the Ares I and V rockets and the Altair lunar lander.
Scheuring is Constellation’s lead for medical operations integration. He was recently reunited with the three astronauts he witnessed decades earlier: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. The lessons they shared from their journey to the moon are helping Scheuring shape crew health and safety goals for future Constellation missions.
“The Apollo 11 crew members I interviewed said to definitely make sure we put the crew members input first,” Scheuring said. “Our generation of flight surgeons works really hard to make sure we do that.”
One example of the “crew first” philosophy is making sure that the Orion waste management area and galley aren’t close to each other. In Apollo, those areas were about 12 inches apart. Separating the areas provides a more sanitary environment for the astronauts.
Scheuring’s focus hasn’t always been on space. With his sights set on the Olympics, he earned an athletic scholarship to Eastern Illinois University and competed in the decathlon. However, years of painful injuries forced him to turn in his track and field shoes for a career in medicine.
After attending the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, Scheuring started a family and sports medicine practice in Galena, Ill. Soon after, he heard about an emerging medical discipline called aerospace medicine and realized he could finally combine his love for space with his medical career.
During his aerospace medicine residency at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, the Sept. 11 attacks prompted Scheuring to join the U.S. Army Reserve as a flight surgeon. It was this experience that ultimately prepared him for his current role as an advocate for astronaut health and safety. But he’s also a huge advocate for NASA and space exploration.
“When I talk to people about NASA, some say it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Scheuring said. “To that I say the number one reason you need to support us is that space exploration makes life better on Earth. Period.”
For photos and video of Scheuring along with more information on NASA’s Constellation Program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/constellation/stars
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