A Reason for Research

During 1958, scientists and engineers, both military and civilian, talked more openly than they had in previous years about radiation dosages, meteoroid penetration, weightlessness, and the other anomalies of space travel. They received a considerably more respectful hearing. What made members of the Congress and Americans in general responsive to such discussions and interested in past research and future plans for space exploration were the ever-larger scientific satellites launched by the Soviet Union, beginning October 4, 1957. In the midst of the nationalistic humiliation following the Sputniks, not only space [53] rocketry but also medical research with rockets received an invaluable boost. In May 1958, Air Force physicians sent mice along on three reentry tests of the Able ablation nose cone for the Thor. Then, the following December and in May 1959, the Navy School of Aviation Medicine dispatched monkeys, sea-urchin eggs and sperm, molds, tissues, and seeds on two test firings of the Jupiter intermediate range missile, carried out by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.69

The new focus on space, the new curiosity about what went on beyond the atmosphere, the determination to "catch up" in the space race - these sentiments redounded to the benefit of those Americans who had been trying to solve the biological and technological puzzles of manned space flight long before there was a space race. Their principal stimulus was not international prestige or the drive for technological supremacy; it was a desire to discover the undiscovered, to probe into the unknown. And they believed that wherever man's instruments went, man should follow. The proponents of manned space flight in the United States could be found in several locations - in the military, in some universities, in the aerospace industry, even in the Congress. But an especially zealous contingent worked for NACA. Ultimately its members would become the engineering and managerial nucleus of the American program to rocket a man into orbit around Earth and bring him back.


69 F. L. Van der Wal and W. D. Young, "Project MIA (Mouse-In-Able), Experiments on Physiological Response to Space Flight," Jet Propulsion, XXXI (Oct. 1959), 716-720; Ashton Graybiel, et al., "An Account of Experiments in Which Two Monkeys Were Recovered Unharmed after Ballistic Space Flight," Aerospace Medicine, XXX (Dec. 1959), 871-931; House Committee on Science and Astronautics, 86 Cong., 1 sess. (1959), Jupiter Missile Shot - Biomedical Experiments, Hearings; David S. Akens, Historical Origins of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, Ala., 1960), 52, 54-56; Gerathewohl, Principles of Bioastronautics, 98-108; Mae M. Link, Space Medicine in Project Mercury, NASA SP-4003 (Washington, 1965), 27-28.


This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury
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