At the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine, established in 1939 at Pensacola, Fla., considerable research and development had gone forward since 1940 under joint Navy and National Research Council sponsorship. Capt. Ashton Graybiel, USN (MC), Director of Medical Research, developed a strong research and development capability in support of naval aviation. The research programs dealing with the problems of weightlessness and the vestibular function, for example, were particularly important to future NASA effort. In the pre-Sputnik period, the U.S. Naval School of Aviation undertook biological research projects for the U.S. Army. These projects, discussed later in this chapter, helped to build biological capability for manned space flight. Scientific specialties included biochemistry, biometrics, biophysics, cardiology, medical electronics, neurophysiology, and aeoustics, physical chemistry, physiology, psychophysiology, and personnel psychology. Among the special facilities at the school were low-pressure chambers, a low-level alpha-radiation laboratory, an electrophysiological laboratory, a slow-rotation room, and a human-disorientation device.19
The Aviation Medical Acceleration Laboratory, located at the Naval Air Development Center, Johnsville, Pa., had the largest human centrifuge in the world (with a 4,000-hp motor, a 50-foot arm, and a 40-g capability). This centrifuge was the Navy's principal tool for in-house research programs for 10 years, and was used extensively in the X-15 and Dyna-Soar programs. It was subsequently utilized in the Mercury program.20
In Philadelphia, Pa., the Naval Air Crew Equipment Laboratory since 1942 had conducted basic research in biological, psychological, and human engineering aspects of aviation medicine related to personal and safety equipment. Special facilities included, among others, underwater test facilities, a complete liquid oxygen laboratory, and an escape-system recovery net capable of recovering ejected freeflight seats and capsules.21 This laboratory, too, was to make important contributions to Project Mercury.
19. "Navy Bioastronautic RDT&E Support of the NASA Manned Space Flight Program," Mar. 12, 1960, a staff paper prepared jointly by DOD and NASA. Copy on file in NASA Historical Archives.
20. Ibid. See also, for example, NASA Project Mercury Paper No. 1ST, "Life System Aspects of Third Mercury Acceleration Laboratory Centrifuge Program," Space Task Group, NASA, Apr. 20, 1961.
21. See note 19.