The aeromedical team composed of Drs. White, Augerson, and Voas, together with other representatives from the Space Task Group, NASA Headquarters, and the Special Committee on Life Sciences described in chapter I, were now to evolve a crew-selection procedure.3 This group was to labor almost around the clock during the next few weeks as plans were made, modified, and finally accepted. Among the group was Dr. Allen O. Gamble, a psychologist from NASA Headquarters, who later described the initial planning as including first a "duties analysis" of what was expected of the astronaut.4
As finally decided, his duties were:
1. To survive; that is, to demonstrate the ability of man to fly in space and to return safely.
2. To perform; that is, to demonstrate man’s capacity to act usefully under conditions of space flight.
3. To serve as a backup for the automatic controls and instrumentation; that is, to add reliability to the system.
4. To serve as a scientific observer; that is, to go beyond what instruments and satellites can observe and report.
5. To serve as an engineering observer and, acting as a true test pilot, to improve the flight system and its components.5
The next step was to determine qualification requirements. These included environmental stress capacity, toughness, and resilience; motor skill; perceptual skill; age maximum of 35, changed later to 39 because too few men could meet the other qualifications if the age were too low; education (an engineering or scientific degree because of the technical job to be accomplished) ; and a height no greater than 5 feet 11 inches, because of the limited dimensions of the capsule.
Space Task Group personnel then explored categories of professions to determine which could furnish individuals best qualified to serve as astronauts. While a courier was carrying from Langley to Washington a set of plans for one particular category, a senior staff member from NASA Headquarters might be on the phone suggesting yet another category. All told, the categories considered were aircraft pilots, balloonists, submariners, deep-sea divers (particularly scuba diver who used underwater breathing apparatus), mountain climbers, Arctic and Antarctic explorers, flight surgeons, and scientists including physicists, astronomers, and meteorologists. It was finally decided that test pilots were the most appropriate group from which to choose. An important factor was their demonstrated capability of meeting threatening situations in the air with accurate judgment, quick decisions, and motor skill.
By December 3 the team had drawn up a set of proposed Civil Service standards, and on that day the Director of Personnel for NASA, Robert J. Lacklen, requested authority from the U.S. Civil Service Commission to appoint "40 scientific specialists who will be engaged in special research activities for the Space Task Group…" It was noted that there were compelling reasons why information concerning these men would be restricted and therefore they could not be recruited by open competitive examination.6
It was contemplated that representatives from the services and industry would nominate 150 men by January 21, 1959, from which 36 would be selected for further testing. These tests would reduce the number to 12, and by the end of a 9-month training period a hard core of 6 men would remain. The next day the U.S. Civil Service Commission approved the request, and on December 9 the notice was published in the Federal Register.7 By the end of the month, however, this plan had been rejected. It had been de cided at the White House level that military test pilots only would be used.8
Meanwhile, the Space Task Group was faced with the problem of determining the most appropriate facility to conduct medical examinations of the astronauts. The staff members involved in making this decision, according to Dr. White, were Gilruth, Donlan, George Low, Warren North, Dr. Voas, Dr. Augerson, and himself. As they developed their plans, they kept the Special Committee on Life Sciences informed of their day-to-day progress.
Initial planning favored selection of a facility in the Washington area, with top consideration being given to three Federal institutions: The National Institutes of Health, the Army's Walter Reed Medical Center, and the Bethesda Naval Hospital. As planning progressed, however, STG redirected its thinking toward the choice of a non-Government facility with a national reputation. This seemed particularly desirable after the White House decided in December that, only military pilots could qualify as astronauts. Since they would be volunteering it was believed only fair that the results of the stringent, medical examinations be known only to NASA. Thus the military careers of unsuccessful candidates would not be jeopardized if some anomaly were discovered.
3. Paul E. Purser, Spec. Agst. to Dir., Project Mercury, Memo for Files, b Subj.: General Background Material on Project Mercury, Mar. 23, 1959. This memorandum places the date of official assignment as Nov. 3, 1958.
4. Personal interviews with Dr. Allen O. Gamble, 1961-63.
5. Allen O. Gamble, "The Astronauts and Project Mercury," a lecture de livered on Apr. 24, 1961, during the Space Education Inst., Mar. 6-May 8, sponsored jointly by the Univ. of Maryland and the Martin Co. In cooperation with the Maryland Sec., American Rocket Soc. See also "Operation Part of the 'Mercury Technical History," an undated draft copy prepared by Robert Voas, In M SC archives.
6. Robert J. Lacklen, Director of Personnel, NASA, Ltr to U.S. Civil Service Commission, Dec. 3,1958.
7. Federal Register, vol. 13, no. 239, Dec. 9,1958, pp. 95-103.
8. White House statement, cited by Dr. Gamble.
See also Grimwood, op.cit., p. 33.