As a former astronaut, Wyle's Scott Parazynski has experienced a bit of speed and excitement in his life. Rocketing into space on five separate occasions aboard NASA Space Shuttles to enormous altitudes, he has also scaled the highest peak on earth, the 29,035-foot Mount Everest, during a May 2009 expedition. His fascination with speed and adventure started earlier in life, however. He was once a competitive luge athlete, a sport that involves hurtling oneself down an iced track at speeds in excess of 80 miles an hour, pulling high-Gs in the process.
"Launching into space aboard a Shuttle firmly pushes you back against your seat at up to three times your normal body weight or three G's on a ride lasting eight and a half minutes," said Dr. Parazynski, who received a medical degree from Stanford. He also holds a commercial aircraft pilot license. "In contrast, the quick turns of a luge track can violently slam your body and neck towards the icy track below at six or more G's, which is almost as much as fighter pilots can experience in high speed maneuvers. Thankfully, a ride down the luge track lasts less than a minute, and the accelerations are for very brief instants.
"And just like becoming an astronaut, piloting a luge in competition is something you train for over a long period of time. There's a powerful rush of adrenalin as you rocket down the track as you're first learning to pilot a sled. With experience you learn how to relax and maneuver with precision and efficiency."
Today, Parazynski is a director of business development for Wyle's Integrated Science and Engineering Group in Houston, Tex. The Group provides medical work, hardware like the "Colbert Treadmill" and other unique science and research services to NASA. He is actively involved with expanding the company's space related experience and business base into new markets, such as the National Science Foundation Antarctic Program, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Department of Defense.
As one of severa l honorary captains of the U.S. Luge team at the upcoming games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Parazynski is excited to again be part of a sport to which he has a strong connection. In the mid-1980's before he became an astronaut, Parazynski was on the USA Luge National "B" Team. He raced in the 1988 Olympic trials and also coached the 1988 Philippine Olympic luge team. Ironically, his lone Filipino athlete is fellow Honorary 2010 U.S. Luge Team Captain, Ray Ocampo. Born in the Philippines and residing in California, Ocampo and Parazynski are longtime friends.
Parazynski, who served as Senator John Glenn's physician on STS-95, brought several USA Luge items with him into orbit, including a patch and a set of pins commemorating the luge team's two Olympic medals in 1998. The items were framed and currently hang on the walls of the USA Luge headquarters in Lake Placid, N.Y. In addition, Scott sent commemorative framed American flags which traveled with the space shuttle crew during each of his five missions. The flags are also displayed at the team's headquarters.
Over the years, Parazynski has remained close with USA Luge, including two visits to Lake Placid where he trained extensively during his time as a luge athlete. While in Lake Placid, he visited the local school children and delivered his inspiring message.
"We are thrilled and honored to have Scott as an honorary team captain," said Gordy Sheer, director of marketing and sponsorship for USA Luge. "He is a true inspiration not only to our athletes, but to people everywhere. His work ethic, achievement and dedication to excellence match up very well with our team's vision."
Parazynski will be in Whistler, B.C. to cheer on the team during their races on Feb. 13 to 17. He will meet with the team at several points during the Games and act as an ambassador for the team at press events leading up to the races.
Wyle is a leading provider of high tech aerospace engineering and information technology services to the federal government on long-term outsourcing contracts. The company also provides biomedical and engineering services for NASA's human space missions; test and evaluation of aircraft, weapon systems, networks, and other government assets; and other engineering services to the aerospace, defense, and nuclear power industries.