Constellation Education


Visit the Constellation Program education page, your online source for Constellation-related educational materials and information.

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Constellation Outreach

Constellation Outreach

From speaking to school-age kids to exhibiting at your local state fair, NASA wants to share the story of America's new launch vehicles.

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Stars of Constellation

    Meet the Faces Behind the Hardware of NASA’s Constellation Program

    NASA’s Constellation Program isn’t just about building the next generation spacecraft, but launching explorers that will help us learn more about our world. Discover the faces behind the hardware that will send humans to the moon and beyond.

Richard A. Scheuring, D.O.

    A Date with Destiny

    jsc2008-e-137643 -- Richard Scheuring

    Title: Constellation Lead for Medical Operations Integration

    Raised: Chicago, IL

    Academics: Eastern Illinois University, Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and Wright State University

    Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Master of Science in Aerospace Medicine

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    On a warm August day in 1969, 4-year-old Rick Scheuring waited impatiently for a glimpse of the first men to walk on the moon. Standing next to his parents at the Apollo 11 homecoming parade in downtown Chicago, Scheuring cheered as the astronauts’ motorcade inched its way down Michigan Avenue. Almost four decades would pass before he would be close to those American heroes again.

    “My father really loved the space program and set me on a course to want to learn and work in space exploration,” Scheuring said while sitting in his office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center 39 years later. “But I always wanted to be a doctor too. I figured someday I might combine the two.”

    And after a long journey, that’s exactly what he did.

    Scheuring, now a NASA flight surgeon, serves as an integration lead for medical operations in NASA’s Constellation program that will return humans to the moon and eventually take them to Mars.

    But the path Scheuring followed to NASA wasn’t always navigated with a focus on space exploration or medicine. Early on, he set his sights on the ultimate athletic career.

    “In high school, I ate, breathed and slept track and field,” Scheuring explained. “I really wanted to compete in the Olympics someday.”

    His desire to be an Olympic champion and extensive training helped Scheuring land an athletic scholarship at Eastern Illinois University, where he competed in the decathlon. But after three-and-a-half years of intense competition and an unfortunate series of devastating injuries, he knew he had to face reality--his dream to compete in the Olympics was over.

    “I knew if it wasn’t fun anymore, I’d have to stop,” Scheuring said. ”And when my coach asked what I’d do next I immediately told him ‘become a doctor!’”

    Scheuring took his Olympic–sized desire and passion and focused on becoming a physician. “They’re easily transferable,” he said. “I think it comes down to tenacity and perseverance. If you have those, you can go anywhere.”

    GPN-2002-000035 -- Apollo 11 homecoming parade in Chicago

    Watching the Apollo 11 homecoming parade in Chicago as a child set Scheuring on a path destined for NASA. Credit: NASA After college, Scheuring worked as an Emergency Room (ER) aid in Chicago. He wanted to make sure he could handle the intense responsibilities of the medical profession, and he knew the ER would be the ultimate testing ground.

    “I loved it,” Scheuring said. “It was everything I thought medicine would be. And the coolest part was just seeing how my efforts helped people.”

    The desire to help others drove Scheuring through medical school at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. Then, while completing training in Denver, he met and married his girlfriend Michelle and started a family. Eventually the Scheurings moved back to Illinois where Rick’s family and sports medicine practice flourished for years.

    Scheuring’s career seemed set, and probably would have been, had he not heard about aerospace medicine, an emerging medical discipline. Realizing he could possibly combine his childhood love for space exploration with his medical career, Dr. Scheuring entered the aerospace medicine residency at Wright State University.

    There, after the Sept. 11 attacks, he made what he calls “one of the only unilateral decisions of my life.” The attacks convinced him to sign up to be a U.S. Army Reserve flight surgeon. Later he discovered the required training was the final puzzle piece needed to reach his dream job, serving as a NASA flight surgeon in the Constellation Program at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

    While working at NASA almost four decades after that warm August day in 1969, fate helped Scheuring meet his three childhood space heroes, the Apollo 11 crew members. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins shared details of their amazing journey to help Rick gather astronaut input to design critical medical crew support systems for future Constellation missions.

    “The Apollo crew members said to make sure the mission planners put crew member needs first,’” Scheuring said. “And that’s just what our generation of flight surgeons works hard to do.” The Constellation program puts a great value on crew input to design improvements in the new spacecraft.

    Richard A. Scheuring

    Serving as a U.S. Army Reserve flight surgeon prepared Scheuring for his dream job as a NASA flight surgeon in the Constellation Program. Credit: Richard A. Scheuring One example the Apollo astronauts relayed to Rick involved the placement of the food preparation and waste management areas about a foot apart in the relatively small Apollo capsule. Their input to Scheuring will help insure the Orion capsule has the systems much farther apart, creating a more sanitary environment for astronauts on future trips to the moon.

    As one of the countless technical issues Constellation considers to make spaceflight safe, this critical work is the culmination of Scheuring’s quest to combine his love of space exploration and medicine.

    While Scheuring strives to ensure astronauts’ health and safety, his family always serves as his safety net. Reflecting on his career, Scheuring feels he’s a very fortunate man and humbly credits his family for his success.

    “My wife Michelle’s support through my career’s twists and turns allowed me to pursue my dream of working at NASA,” said Scheuring. “I owe a large part of my success to her and my kids.”

    As a proud member of NASA’s Constellation Program, Scheuring said he is a huge supporter of NASA and he strongly believes in the values of space exploration.

    “Wherever I go, I talk to people about NASA,” he said. “If they think space exploration is too expensive, I tell them the number one reason to support space exploration is that it makes life on Earth better. Period.”

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