NASA People

Steve Chappell, Ph.D.

Portrait of Steve Chappell, NEEMO 14 member, climbing Mt. Rainier. Image credit: NASA

Dr. Steve Chappell grew up in Lake Orion, MI. As a kid, he dreamt of space travel and that dream continues to drive him today. After graduating high school, he attended the University of Michigan and earned a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering Sciences. After graduating, he used his newly gained expertise to help design and develop aircraft and missile simulations to assist pilots with real-time combat decision making, but his desire to be a part of human spaceflight was still strong. This drove Steve to move to Colorado to further his education…and be closer to the mountains to develop his growing passion for rock climbing and mountaineering.

Steve’s intent upon returning to college was to become a medical doctor specializing in aerospace medicine and he began taking classes to make that possible, but being a climber led him to learn about Rocky Mountain Rescue based in Boulder, CO. He became a member of the all-volunteer team, which is one of the busiest in the country, and quickly became active performing technical rock, snow, and ice rescue missions. Over time, he found that his involvement on the mountain rescue team fed his interest in helping people while doing something he loved and he changed his educational course to pursue bioastronautics-related graduate degrees, studying how humans perform in the harsh environment of space. Steve earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Colorado, studying human performance in simulated Moon and Mars gravity. While he was performing his graduate research, he worked as one of the lead systems engineers developing and launching a satellite to study cloud formation in the upper atmosphere. Also during this time, his passion for rescue led him to become the operational leader of his mountain rescue team. He’s taken part in more than 350 rescue missions and also climbed many high peaks in Colorado and on international expeditions. Along the way, he was introduced to the wonders beneath the waves of the ocean, attaining multiple SCUBA certifications and making dives in exotic locations around the world.

Steve’s diverse background and experience led him to work for Wyle Integrated Science & Engineering at NASA JSC. He is helping to define and execute the research needed to optimize human performance in the next-generation spacesuits and EVA systems. As part of his job, he’s led and taken part in studies in different exploration analog environments including the high arctic, parabolic flight aircraft, and partial gravity simulators at JSC. He has been a major contributor to the design of the mockups and procedures to be used during NEEMO 14.

Although Steve works at JSC, much of his time is spent working remotely from near Boulder. He remains active with Rocky Mountain Rescue as the team’s current President and gets into the mountains whenever he can. Steve also enjoys running, canyoneering, reading, and painting. He is looking forward to working as a team with the other crewmembers during NEEMO 14 to help NASA take the next steps to push forward the frontier of space exploration.