On August 21,1959, NASA announced the establishment of an ad hoc Bioscience Advisory Committee to study the capability in space-oriented life-science research and development, to outline the scope of current and future problem areas in the space bioscience field, and to recommend the future role of NASA in a bioscience program. composed of leading scientists, this committee was under the chairmanship of Dr. Seymour S. Kety, Director of the Clinical Science Laboratory of the National Institutes of Health, and was generally referred to as the "Kety committee."11 The other members were Dr. Wallace O. Fenn, Professor of Physiology, University of Rochester; Dr. David R. Goddard, Director of the Division of Biology, University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Donald G. Marquis, Professor of Psychology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. Robert S. Morison, Director of Natural and Medical Sciences, the Rockefeller Foundation; and Dr. Cornelius A. Tobias, Professor of Medical Physics, University of California. Dr. Clark T. Randt of Western Reserve University served as secretary of the committee.
Since July the group had been in the process of organization to provide guidelines for the NASA bioscience advisory programs.12 In this period the group had been informed of the status of existing aerospace medical facilities, programs, and personnel by representatives of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Representatives of industry and universities also provided background information for the committee.
On January 25, 1960, the Kety committee submitted its report to the
NASA Administrator, whereupon it was dissolved.13
The report recommended that maximum integration of the personnel and facilities
applicable to the space-oriented life sciences in the military services
and other Government agencies "be arranged in the most appropriate manner
indicated by the nature and extent of the specific problem at hand."14
Nevertheless, it was felt that the broad national space program should
be the responsibility of the civilian agency NASA rather than the military.
The Kety report stated the situation in these words:
1. Basic biologic effects of extraterrestrial environments, with particular emphasis on those phenomena associated with weightlessness, ionizing radiation, and alterations in life rhythms or periodicity, as well as the identification of complex organic or other molecules in planetary atmospheres and surfaces which might be precursors or evidence of extraterrestrial life.
2. Applied or technologic aspects of medicine and biology as they relate to manned space flight, including the effect of weightlessness on human performance, radiation hazards, tolerance or force stresses, and maintenance of life-sustaining artificial environment.
3. Medical and behavioral scientific problems concerned with more fundamental investigation of metabolism, nutrition, blood circulation, respiration, and the nervous system control of bodily functions and performance in space-equivalent situations.
In a section entitled "Relationship of the NASA Office of Life Sciences to Existing Programs in the Military Services," the Kety report stated that while the military medical services had been engaged in aeromedical studies since World War I and had substantial facilities and dedicated personnel, it appeared that "the military capability in aeromedicine is, at present, not fully utilized." The reasons given were several: Many of the biomedical problems of conventional high-altitude flight had been reasonably well solved; the military requirements for conventional aircraft were increasingly uncertain; there appeared to be a declining need for the use of existing aeromedical facilities for the training and indoctrination of conventional pilots; current military plans emphasized the use of unmanned ballistic missiles; and while "certain forward-looking elements at various points in the Military Establishment foresee a tactical need for manned vehicles in space," these weapons did not form a major part of current operational plans. Thus the military budgets for research were "not defended at present on the basis of a clearly defined existing military objective or requirement" but depended for the most part on the "declining momentum of the conventional aircraft program and the existence of a few experimental projects," of which the X-15 and the Dyna-Soar vehicle series were cited as examples.
On the other hand, the Kety report noted, "NASA, which does have a clearly
defined mission to put and maintain men in space, has essentially no existing
capability for studying the biological and medical problems involved."
For Project Mercury, therefore, NASA had of necessity turned to the services
which, in turn, had "responded with enthusiasm and good will to this new
challenge." But, it was stressed:
There were problem areas here, the committee continued, because while
the military services "presently appear to possess a capability in excess
of their own need," the situation could change in terms of long-range plans;
the "apparent excess" of space medical capability available in military
establishments "may be temporary."
1. That NASA establish an Office of Life Sciences having the responsibility and authority for planning, organizing, and operating a life-sciences program including intramural and extramural research, development, and training.
2. That a Director of Life Sciences be appointed who would be directly responsible to the Administrator of NASA in the same manner and at the same directional level as the other program directors.
3. That the internal organization of the Office of Life Sciences include assistant directors of Basic Biology, Applied Medicine and Biology, Medical and Behavioral Sciences, and the life Sciences extramural program.
4. That an intramural life-sciences program and facility be established
with three sections:
(a) Basic biology
(b) Applied medicine and biology
(c) Medical and behavioral sciences
5. That the Director of Life Sciences recommend advisory committees made up of consultants outside of NASA to be appointed by the Administrator.
6. That maximum integration of the personnel and facilities applicable to the space-oriented life sciences in the military services and other Government agencies be arranged in the most appropriate manner indicated by the nature and extent of the scientific problems at hand.
7. That the Office of Life Sciences assume proper responsibility for education and training in the space-oriented life sciences through postgraduate fellowships, training grants to institutions, and short-term visiting scientist appointments to be integrated with other NASA efforts in this area.
8. That the NASA life-sciences program place special emphasis on the free exchange of scientific findings, information, and criticism among all scientists.
9. That the NASA life-sciences facilities be considered a public trust in implementing national and international cooperative efforts.
13. Report of National Aeronautics and Space Administration Bioscience Advisory Committee, Jan. 25,1960," generally referred to as the "Kety report" and published in Space Research in the Life Sciences, op. cit., pp. 37-58.
14. Ibid., p.38.
15. Ibid., p. 39.
16. Ibid., p. 57.
17. Ibid., pp. 40-41.
18. Ibid., pp. 53-54.
19. Ibid., pp. 54-55.