PROJECT MERCURY WAS THE FIRST American laboratory in which man was able to test his physiological capabilities to withstand the hostile forces of the extraterrestrial environment for longer than a few seconds. Weightlessness, severe g-forces, combined stresses, radiation, potential disorientations, and toxic hazards in spacecraft were among the problems about which earthbound research had been able to supply only limited information. Indeed, from the viewpoint of environmental medicine as an applied science, Project Mercury marked the swift transition from what had come to be known as aviation medicine to what is now recognized as space medicine.
Beyond the inclusion of man as an effective system in rocketpropelled space vehicles, Project Mercury also offered the tremendous challenge of the newly available space environment to basic biology itself. From the beginning, therefore, NASA management was concerned with the entire spectrum of the life sciences, extending far beyond the biotechnology of Project Mercury. This included ecology and exobiology as well as the definition aid projected application of space medicine.
The fuller history remains to be written. Also to be written is a comparative study of the American astronaut experience and that of the Soviet cosmonauts. The present study aims to provide a building block for a future life-science history recounting man's conquest of nature beyond the planet Earth.
In the preparation of this volume the author has received splendid cooperation wherever she turned. It is impossible to mention each person who gave generously of time and effort. However, special appreciation must go to Dr. Robert R. Gilruth and the Project Mercury Space Task Group; to former Surgeon General Oliver K. Niess, USAF (Ret.), and his staff, particularly Brig. Gen. Don C. Wenger (MC) and Col. Karl II. Houghton (MC) (Ret.) to the bioastronautics staff at the various centers and laboratories of the Air Force Systems Command; to Maj. Gen. Leighton I. Davis, DOD Assistant for Project Mercury, and his bioastronautics staff; to Capt. Ashton Graybiel, USN (MC), Director of Medical Research, U.S. Navy, and his staff; to Dr. Randolph Lovelace II and his staff at the Lovelace Foundation, particularly Dr. A. H. Schwichtenberg; and to Dr. Sam F. Seeley, National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council. Special thanks go also to Brig. Gen. Don Flickinger, USAF (MC) (Ret.); to Dr. Sherman P. Vinograd, Dr. Jefferson F. Lindsey, and Walter B. Sullivan, Jr., NASA Division of Space Medicine and to NASA historians Dr. Eugene M. Emme, Dr. Frank W. Anderson, Jr., and James M. Grimwood.
This project, initiated under the joint sponsorship of Brig. Gen. Charles H. Roadman, USAF, then Director of the Office Of Life Sciences, NASA, and General Niess, was brought to completion under Dr. George M. Knauf, Acting Director, Space Medicine, Office of Manned Space Flight. The author wishes to express appreciation for the fact, that they all supported her efforts to the fullest, and none ever attempted to modify her independent interpretations or conclusions. Responsibility for omissions or errors must rest wholly with the author. Comments and additional information are invited to complete the story begun in the present monograph.
Mae Mills Link