Stress Testing 17

The Air Force Research and Development Command (later the of Air Force Systems Command) provided the next part of the program for selection of the astronauts for Project Mercury. Brig. Gen. Don Flickinger, Command Surgeon and also a member of the NASA Special Committee on Life Sciences, worked closely with table Space Task Group to provide the general direction of this phase of the astronaut selection program.  Begun on February 16, 1959, and completed on March 27, 1959, this testing for NASA was performed under Project No. 7164, "Physiology of Flight," and Task No. 71832, "Physiological Criteria for Extended Environments."

Colonel Stapp, USAF (MC), was at that time chief of the Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright Air Development Center (redesiginated the Aerospace Medical Laboratory later that year, on August 1).  Supervising the tests under his direction were Lt. Col. William R. Turner, USAF (MC), chairman of the Candidate Evaluation Committee, and Capt. Charles L. Wilson, USAF (MC), Candidate Evaluation Program task officer.  The following personnel participated in this program: 1. Acceleration tests—Capt. Evan F. Lindberg, USAF (MC), Principal Investigator; Capt. Alvin. S. Hyde, USAF (MC) ; Capt. Neil Cherniack, USAF (MC) 1st Lt. Lawrence M. Berman, USAF; Mrs. Julia Pettitt; 2. Anthropological measurements Charles E. Clauser, Principal Investigator; Capt. Robert S. Ziegen, USAF; Kenneth W. Kennedy. 3.  Biological acoustical tests Capt. Ronald G. Hansen, USAF, Principal Investigator; Maj. Jack E. Steele, USAF (MC) Donald J. Baker; Dr. Rolf R. Coermann; Capt. Edward B. Magid, USAF (MC); 4.  Thermal tests Capt. Joseph Gold, USAF (MC), Principal Investigator; Johannes W. Polte; 5. Physical fitness tests Capt. Charles L. Wilson, USAF (MC), Principal Investigator; Capt. Edmund B. Weis, Jr., USAF (MC); S/Sgt. Joseph Young, USAF; 6. Psychological tests-Capt. George E. Ruff, USAF (MC), Principal Investigator; Capt. Victor H. Thaler, TJSAF; Dr. Mildred B. Mitchell; Capt. Edwin Z. Levy, USAF (MC); Capt. John K. Jackson., USAF; 1st Lt. Gilbert E, Johnson USAF.

Having completed their examinations at the Lovelace Foundation on a Saturday morning, the 32 candidates, carrying with them their complete records, departed for Dayton, Ohio, arriving near midnight.  After being billeted in a single house, they reported at 10 o'clock the following morning for a briefing by the laboratory coordinator, the administrative assistant, the task officer, the investigator from the Physical Fitness Test Unit, and an investigator from the Psychology Test Unit

The tests to be administered had been devised to determine the candidate's psychological makeup and to estimate his ability to cope with stresses.  As reported in WADC Technical Report 59-505, the examinations were in the following areas, with data recorded on machine record cards:

1. Psychiatric evaluation psychological testing, anthropometric studies

2. Stress tolerance determinations from thermal flux, acceleration forces, low barometric pressures, pressure-suit protection,
isolation, and confinement.

3. Final clinical appraisal of suitability

Specific stress tests were as follows:

1. Harvard Step test:  Subject steps up 20 inches to a platform  and down once every 2 seconds for 5 minutes to measure his
 physical fitness.

2. Treadmill maximum workload: Subject walks at a constant rate on a moving platform which is elevated 1° each minute.  Test continues until heart reaches 180 beats per minute.  Test of physical fitness.

3. Cold pressor: Subject plunges his feet into a tub of ice water.
 Pulse and blood pressure are measured before and during test.
 
4. Complex behavior simulator:  A panel with 12 signals, each  requiring a different response, measures ability to react, reliably in confusing situations.

5. Tilt table: Subject lies on steeply inclined table for 25 minutes  to measure ability of the heart to compensate for an unusual position of the body for an extended time.

6. Partial pressure suit: Subject is taken to simulated altitude of 65,000 feet for 1 hour in an MC-1 partial pressure suit.  Measure of efficiency of heart systems and breathing at low ambient pressures.

7. Isolation: Subject goes into a dark, soundproof room for a 3 hours to determine his ability to adapt to unusual circumstances and to cope with the, absence of external stimuli.

8. Acceleration:  Subject is placed in a centrifuge with the seat  inclined at various angles to measure his ability to withstand
near  multiple gravity forces.

9. Heat: Subject spends 2 hours in a chamber with the temperature at 130° F. Reactions of heart and body functions to this, the stress are measured.

10. Equilibrium and vibration: Subject is seated on chair which rotates simultaneously on two axes.  He is required to maintain the chair on an even keel by means of a control stick with and without vibration.  The subject is tested both with and without a blindfold.

11. Noise: Subject is exposed to a variety of sound frequencies to determine his susceptibility to tones of high frequency.

The psychological tests administered at WADC had two objectives:  To determine personality and motivation, and to determine intelligence and special aptitudes.  The first was accomplished, through the following: Interviews, Rorschach (ink blot), thematic apperception (the stories suggested by pictures), draw-a-person, sentence completion, self-inventory based on 566-item questionnaire, officer effectiveness inventory, personal-preference schedule based on 225 pairs of self-descriptive statements, preference evaluation based on 52 statements, determination of authoritarian attitudes, peer ratings, and interpretation of the question, Who am I?  The second objective was accomplished through administration of the Wechsler Adult Scale, Miller Analogies, Raven Progressive Matrices, Doppelt Mathematical Reasoning Scale, engineering analogies, mechanical comprehension, Air Force Officer Qualification Test, Aviation qualification test (USN) space memory, spatial orientation, Gottschaldt Hidden Figures, and Guilford-Zimmerman Spatial Visualization.

Unless the candidates so wished, none of the medical, psychological, or performance records were included in their personal records.  The reason for this exclusion of Project Mercury records from Department of Defense pilot medical records was "to guarantee that any episode of syncope (which might occur, for example, on the human centrifuge, the MC-1 test, or the Tilt Table test) would not be a threat to the pilot's flying status."18

It was noted in WADC Technical Report 59-505 that since the beginning, in 1952, of the U.S. Air Force program relating to man in space, ARDC had envisioned a program to be used in selecting crew members for future projects which, ideally, would include these characteristics:
 
1. Individuals must be medically acceptable and technically capable before they are considered as potential candidates.

2. Those tested must be actual project candidates.

3. The test profile must simulate all aspects of the stresses anticipated during the actual project, and these stresses must be combined in the same relationship and intensity as would occur during a project.

4. A battery of nonsimulating but relevant tests must be included in the testing program.

5. In the final recommendation of candidates, the investigators must interpret subject performance on the simulating tests only.

6. All candidates must enter the project.

7. Upon completion of project, all participants must be graded on effectiveness of their performance.

8. Investigators must then seek significant correlation between subject performances on various simulating and nonsimulating tests and successful mission performance.

9. Nonsimulating tests bearing significant correlation with successful mission performances may then be used in selection of future subjects from an identical population for identical projects.

The Project Mercury candidate evaluation program was necessarily based upon factors which contributed toward making it less than the ideal program envisioned, the report, continued, because of such factors as time limitations, accelerated schedules, and unforeseen changes.



17.  The following discussion is based on Charles L. Wilson, ed., Project  Mercury Candidate Evaluation Program, WADC Tech. Rep. 59-505, Dec. 1959, U.S. Air Force and on Project Mercury: Man-in-Space Program of the NASA, op. cit., pp. 44-45.

18.  Wilson, op. cit.


 Previous  Index  Next