Stennis new director looks to future of Stennis

Published 3:53 pm Thursday, March 4, 2010

Patrick Scheuermann was once considered by NASA as a potential astronaut, but now he is the new director for  John C. Stennis Space Center.

Scheuermann holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and has served in a number of administrative capacities, including associate and deputy director of Stennis and chief operating officer at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility over his career with NASA that spans more than 20 years. Now some moves within NASA have moved him up to director of the space flight engine testing facility in neighboring Hancock County.

Scheuermann said he started his career as a rocket test conductor at Rocketdyne in 1986. His biography states he joined NASA an employee in 1988. In 1998 Scheuermann made the final 100 to be considered for astronaut duties, but in the end was not selected. Scheuermann said in that selection process NASA looks for certain skill sets, such as a medical background, piloting skills or military training. Even though he did not make the cut to be an astronaut, he looks back fondly on the experience.

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“Honestly, I was just honored to make it that far. And again I’ll treasure that for the rest of my life,” Scheuermann said.

A native of New Orleans, Scheuermann later married a Pearl River County resident the former Sarah Lee. Scheuermann said after their marriage the couple lived in the Picayune area for about 11 years. Scheuermann’s wife was a reporter for the Item a number of years ago but later went back to college to get a nursing degree from USM. She currently teaches at Delta College in Covington, Scheuermann said.

In 1999 and 200 Scheuermann participated in a fellowship program where he worked in Sen. Trent Lott’s office on a Veteran’s Administration Housing Urban Development Bill. He said in that time he gained an understanding of how issues came across a senator majority leader’s desk, giving him a valuable perspective.

Some changes could take place in the near future at Stennis under Scheuermann’s watch. President Barack Obama’s decision to include commercial companies more in space travel will be the catalyst for those changes. Scheuermann said he is excited about the coming changes, but does not consider them to be drastic considering NASA has been testing commercial products for decades, such as Rocketdyne’s RS-68 engine. Another commercial relationship includes a new partnership with Orbital Sciences Corporation for Stennis to test engines, which will be used to resupply the International Space Station.

Test stands at Stennis are nationally unique in that they are the only place to fully test an engine for the full 520 seconds it takes to put a craft into orbit.

As part of its future, Stennis will work to build upon the business model that was implemented after the Apollo program, where federal agencies and commercial companies work to grow and evolve to meet the challenge before them.

Outside of engine testing, Stennis is looking to find a use for the old Army ammunition manufacturing plant, even if it is not in the same capacity as it once was. The site also has Navy Seal training facilities, which the military branch is sharing with other military agencies. Scheuermann said he is looking forward to continuing that partnership to better train the country’s war fighter. He also looks forward to continuing partnerships with NAVOCEANO and NOAA.

Applied science work at Stennis includes unique Earth sensing projects that could benefit the entire state of Mississippi. Scheuermann said he expects to see growth in that area in the future.

Ultimately, Scheuermann’s experiences give him an understanding that NASA and Stennis need to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money. He is excited to be the new director of Stennis and has learned a lot from the site’s previous administrations, especially Roy Estes.

“For me to be able to actually sit down as center director is just… a little surreal. But I’m excited about it, my wife is excited about it, and it really gets us to be where we want to be, which is at Stennis Space Center for hopefully a very long time,” Scheuermann said.