Biological Requirements

In November 1957, the month in which the Presidentís Scientific Advisory Committee was established, NACA set up a Special Committee on Space Technology under the chairmanship of Dr. H. Guyford Stever of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Stever Committee met, for the first time on February 13, 1958, and established seven working groups. The group named to study human factors and training was headed by Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace II, director of the Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research.8 This group concerned itself with the scientific and nonmilitary biomedical requirements for manned space flight, as well as other biological factors that should be part of a national space program.*

The final report was dated October 27,1958, the month in which NASA became operational.9 Briefly, it considered how best to utilize man's capabilities in space exploration and outlined the means by which the new space agency should develop resources in life-sciences research. Thirteen technical areas were discussed: Program administration; acceleration; high-intensity radiation in space; cosmic radiation; nuclear propulsion; ionization effects: human information processing and communication; displays; closed-cycle living; balloon simulators; space capsules; crew selection and training; and research centers and launching sites. The report noted that, because of the rapid development of rocket technology in missile programs, manned satellites and space vehicles had a potential for rapid and revolutionary progress. Concurrent biomedical and physical research and development to determine man's capabilities in space would be necessary. According to the report:
 

The Working Group on Human Factors and Training urged that crew selection, survival, safety, and efficiency be considered in all experiments. Experience and training would be the most important factors in crew selection. Experiments with man could well parallel experiments with animals. Indeed, this research could properly be considered an extension of past research in aviation and submarine medicine, but requiring an even more advanced technology.

The ad hoc committee also noted that the time schedule for manned space flight "must be realistic in both the life and physical sciences, taking into consideration the time period necessary to develop a new missile system, and to carry out an intensive laboratory and flight test program. . . . Quality assurance procedures will be required as never before." For a successful space program, a cooperative effort of life scientists and physical scientists representing diverse professional backgrounds would be required. Accumulated experience would be applied to research on vital activities at the whole-body, organ, tissue, cellular, molecular, and atomic levels. Understanding of these activities under altered environmental conditions would "result in an orderly progression of research until man shall be ready for space flight." It was recommended that the program include the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Bureau of Standards, the Public Health Service, and the National Academy of Sciences, with the new space agency having primary responsibility.

Since, at the time the final report was submitted, NASA had just become operational and lacked resources in life sciences, it was recommended that NASA "develop a capability as quickly as possible," At staring with contract coverage concurrent with in-house growth. The cooperation of other nations in this scientific endeavor was also envisaged. The critical goal of developing a manned satellite program would require a life-sciences committee to study the immediate problems associated with manned space flight and to "recommend specific research investigations to be undertaken by the NASA, and to exchange information on research and development in this field by government and private organizations." The membership of this committee, it was further recommended, should include not only representatives from the Department of Defense, U.S. Public Health Service, National Academy of Sciences, and Atomic Energy Commission, but also universities and foundations.

It was also recommended that a long-range space program be developed. This would require a director of life-sciences research in NASA Headquarters with responsibility for administering a life-sciences program primarily directed toward the solution of those problems which must be solved prior to manís exploration of space."

This broad blueprint of the committee was to chart the course of the NASA life-sciences program. Although about a year would pass before NASA established a life-sciences directorate, at the time the report of the ad hoc committee was submitted a NASA Special Life Sciences Committee had already been appointed. This committee was directed to study the immediate medical problems associated with manned space flight, novel problems posed by the space environment and the bringing together of relevant experience from many disciplines and agencies.

Dr. Lovelace was appointed by the NASA Administrator to serve as chairman of this new committee, effective October 1,1958, the date on which NASA became operational. This Special Committee on Life Sciences would, until its dissolution on March 31, 1960, serve in an advisory capacity to NASA. It included two other members of the Stever committee: General Flickinger, Surgeon and Assistant Deputy Commander for Research, Air Research and Development Command, USAF, who served as Vice Chairman; and Dr. Langham. The remainder of the committee initially included Lt. Comdr. John M. Ebersole (MC), National Medical Center; Lt. Col. Robert H. Holmes (MC), U.S. Army Research and Development Command; Dr. Robert B. Livingston, National Institutes of Health; and Dr. Orr Reynolds, Director of Science, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. Capt. G. Dale Smith, USAF (VC). on duty status with NASA Headquarters, served as secretary.10 Through the next months, this committee provided invaluable professional counsel as the manned space program quickly began to take shape in Project Mercury.


* Serving with Dr. Loveless on the ad hoc committee were A. Scott Crossfield, North American Aviation, Inc.; Hubert M. Drake, High Speed Flight Station, NACA; Brig. Gen. Don D. Flickinger, USAF (MC); Col. Edward B. Giller, USAF; Dr. James D. Hardy, U.S. Naval Air Development Center; Dr. Wright Haskell Langham, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory; Dr. Ulrich C. Luft, Head, Physiology Department, Loveless Foundation for Medical Education and Research; and Boyd C. Myers II (Secretary), NACA.


8.  Dr. Lovelace later (Mar. 20, 1864) became Director of Space Medicine. Office of Manned Space Flight, NASA Hq.

9.  Report of the Working Group on Human Factors and Training to the Special Committee on Space Technology, Oct. 27,1058.

10.  See appendix A for final committee members.
 


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