“NASA hasn’t gone away,” according to Dr. Scott Phillips of Zionsville, a surgeon with the Center for Ear Nose Throat and Allergy, who happens to have the ear of the space program.
Phillips, also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, has been involved with the space program for 14 years, serving as an on-call doctor for space shuttle missions.
“The Air Force has provided services for NASA since 1959 — since Mercury and Alan Shepard,” Phillips said.
That didn’t end with the dissolution of the shuttle program in July 2011, nor did Phillips’ involvement.
“There are two different programs ramping up,” he said.
In one — Commercial Crew — NASA will work with private companies to build a new space vehicle. In the other — Orion — the space agency will look at traveling to an asteroid and to Mars.
So, where does an ENT specialist from Zionsville fit in?
His role is twofold: coordinating a rescue effort if one is ever needed for astronauts traveling to and from the International Space Station, and serving as an advisor for the company selected to build the next spacecraft.
“I’m excited about working on plans for the future,” said Phillips, a diehard proponent of the space program.
He said people thought the space program cost too much when the space shuttle program was active; but, he continued, Americans spend more on Halloween or tennis shoes per capita per year than is spent on the space program. Further, Phillips said, technology spin-offs from the space program benefit everyone.
“Smoke detectors were designed to detect fires on Skylab in the ‘70s,” he explained. “NASA developed the technology, and it was picked up by private companies. Battery-operated equipment came straight from NASA. Without the space program, we wouldn’t have pacemakers.”
Magnetic Resonance Imaging also was developed by NASA scientists studying the moon’s surface, according to Phillips.
So, he’s proud of his involvement — past, present and future — though details of his future involvement are still being worked out.
“Things are still in the formative phases because NASA is gearing up for new missions,” Phillips said.
See Wednesday's Times Sentinel for the full story.