The Boeing 727-200 airplane achieves reduced gravity by making a steep climb, followed by a free fall. (Photos courtesy of Zero Gravity Corporation)
An assistant professor of nursing at Indiana Wesleyan University, Scott Rhoades M’06 in summer 2016 took part in a reduced-gravity flight—an experience typically associated with training astronauts—to conduct research in aerospace nursing.
An aircraft can achieve reduced gravity by following a parabolic flight path—making a steep climb, followed by a free fall—to allow the craft to experience weightlessness for about 30 seconds. During Scott’s flight, offered through Zero Gravity Corporation,
the Boeing 727-200 airplane made 25 such maneuvers, allowing him to gather data on cardiovascular, respiratory, and sensory issues.
Scott Rhoades experienced weightlessness aboard the Zero Gravity Corporation flight.
“Historically, we know the exploration of space is physically and psychologically demanding,” Scott said, counting bone loss, muscle atrophy, cardiac de-conditioning, and visual impairment among the risks. “As we set our vision toward the exploration
of Mars and deep space, we seek to overcome or adapt to these challenges. In addition, as opportunities in commercial space ventures expand, we are interested in learning how individuals with certain chronic, manageable health issues respond to the stressors
For years, researchers have used reduced-gravity flights to explore medical concepts in space, Scott said, but his flight, known as Project Breckinridge, “is unique in that it’s driven from a nursing research perspective.” Funding for the project came
from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., via Indiana Wesleyan’s Scholarship Council.
Growing up in Nanty-Glo, Cambria County, Scott started flying at age 14. He enrolled in emergency medical technician training as a high school senior and went on to nursing school with the intent of becoming a flight nurse.
His 30 years of service has included emergency medical services and emergency, flight, wilderness, and aerospace nursing at patient care, education, and administrative levels. His experiences include a graduate internship at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center,
the development and coordination of the Patricia Hilliard Robertson ’85 Center for Aviation Medicine, and providing medical support for airshow operations with the US Air Force Thunderbirds, the US Navy Blue Angels, the Canadian Snowbirds, and other
flight demonstration teams and performers. He also participated as a nurse reservist for four Space Shuttle launches, including the final flights of the space shuttles Atlantis and Endeavor.
He has served as a subject matter advisor to NASA Medical Operations and as a representative to NASA’s Health and Human Performance Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston, where he has participated in training astronauts and cosmonauts on medical procedures
for spaceflight. Scott currently serves as a volunteer for the National Museum of the US Air Force and the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio.
In 2016, he founded the Center for Aerospace Nursing Excellence to provide resources and support for aerospace nurses and their specialty organizations.
These nurses work in a variety of settings to address health issues for all participants in air and space travel, from airline passengers to skydivers to astronauts.
He has received numerous awards, including the 2012 IUP Young Alumni Achievement Award. He is a member of the Aerospace Medical Association, the Aerospace Nursing Society, the Aerospace Physiology Society, and the Wilderness Medicine Society.
Scott enjoys writing, flying, backpacking, old television shows, and a good bed and breakfast. He and his wife, Karen Churchill Rhoades ’93, live in the Dayton, Ohio, area.