By Elizabeth Wehman, editor
DURAND HIGH SCHOOL graduate, Steven Zusack, class of 2002, recently acquired an internship at the NASA Johnson Space Center. The love of stars as a kid and his desire to ‘expand human space exploration’ has helped him achieve his dream of pursuing his second undergraduate degree from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). (Courtesy Photo)
Steven Zusack, a 2002 graduate of Durand High School, will soon be fulfilling a dream. Loving stars as a kid, Zusack was always fascinated with space and human space travel. Zusack has recently completed his second undergraduate degree from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in mechanical engineering and in the midst of it has pursued internships at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), NASA Langley, NASA Marshall, Element Materials Technology, the Lugar Center for Renewable Energy and now has captured the position of a NASA Engineering Intern at the NASA Johnson Space Center with the hopes of securing a permanent position in the future. He graduated from IUPUI in December of 2015.
The internship includes working on multiple projects. First, Zusack will be characterizing composite and standard deposition 3D printers by using all sorts of design methods and testing the strength of each one to find what build method is truly the best. Secondly, he will be testing permeability of materials for an inflatable airlock NASA has been working on for the International Space Station (ISS). In addition to those first two projects, Zusack will be doing design work for a testing mechanism. The mechanism is a robotic arm that will pass thermal shielding materials through a plasma torch. The goal of this research is to find out which materials are best for the heat shielding of the new Orion Spacecraft.
Zusack will be continuing his education past his undergraduate degree and is currently awaiting responses back from graduate schools to pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D. His desire is to continue to work for either NASA, SpaceX, or another entity on the edge of human space technology.
This is Zusack’s second undergraduate degree with his first in Psychology from Wabash College in 2006. Not feeling his rightful place in the business world, he decided to return to school with one clear goal: “expand human space exploration.” When people tell him there is a whole world to explore, he laughs and says, “The world is just the beginning.”
In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is another field that intrigues Zusack. This field focuses on, rather than taking all needed items and resources with a space mission, using the resources directly from the environment the mission takes place in. For example, Zusack conducted a research project on how to extract water ice from the pole of the moon. The water can be used for a manned base or even separated into hydrogen and oxygen to be burned as rocket fuel. Another example would be to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere for a Mars base. Any kind of indigenous resources that could be used means less mass to launch from Earth and, thus, less expensive missions (fuel is the primary expenses for any space travel). “This is the kind of research I plan to continue while in graduate school and, hopefully, after I enter the industry as a professional,” adds Zusack.
Zusack is the son of Mike and Linda Zusack of Durand. He currently resides in Houston, TX.