The Selection Of Astronauts Including Dynamic Testing
The present status of a continuing thirteen year problem of comprehensive special examination and evaluation procedures for the determination of the physical, mental and social well-being of preselected, highly motivated, and experienced test pilots and astronauts will be reviewed. These subjects repeatedly had proven their ability to withstand the stresses of flight while performing their missions. During these years a group of clinicians and scientists who are biologically, physically and medically oriented have acquired a broad interdisciplinary approach to such examinations.
It is anticipated that highly trained and proven scientists will ultimately become one of the members of a spacecraft crew. Of necessity they will need to participate in a fairly large portion of the astronaut training program. Prior to their examination and selection these men will not have been exposed to the stresses of flight so their reaction to such stresses will be unknown, and thus the selection process will be more difficult. The Gemini program will be most helpful in the final selection, indoctrination, and training of scientists as they can go along on orbital flights with an experienced astronaut.
The success of the total examination program is attested to by the performance and reliability of the X-15 and Mercury crews.
Present methods for obtaining the candidates past history including aviation and space experience, scientific accomplishments, and the family medical history will be given. Following this will be a report on the physical examination including examinations by medical and surgical specialists who are endeavouring to detect and evaluate even the slightest deviation from normal. Present contemplated laboratory and radiological procedures will be given, including micro-techniques for the determination of blood chemistries and the use of supersensitive intensifiyng screens and television observation for special radiological studies.
Luft’s experience on tests to determine the general work capacity, physical condition and cardiopulmonary competence will be presented. Objective estimates of an individual’s physical competence are made by measuring the oxygen consumption when performing exercise at a maximal level. Under these circumstances the limiting factors are 1) the quantity of active tissue involved in the production of energy, 2) the quality of cellular metabolism, and 3) the ability of the circulation and respiration to meet metabolic demands for oxygen. The physical condition of the individual depends primarily on the functional factors 2) and 3) and can be determined more precisely if variability attributable to the quantity of active tissue is taken into account. These studies, among other information, revealed that the maximal oxygen intake per unit of lean body mass varies with the potassium content of the latter.
The program for subsequent periodic examinations will be in addition to constant and continuing medical observation and care. Repeat examinations will include an interval history and relevant laboratory, roentgenologic and physical competence tests. Past histories and records will be very valuable sids. Special emphasis will be placed on the progress of any previously discovered minor pathological processes. Those individuals eliminated from the flight program will still be highly valuable members of the operational staff.
After the annual examination program goes on for several years, an attempt will be made to correlate psychological, physiological and anatomical characteristics with chronological age. A critical load can then be imposed on any deteriorating function. The use of electronic computers will facilitate data acquisition, storage, retrieval and study.
It would be most helpful to all concerned to have an International Advisory Council representing the various clinical and scientific disciplines. Such a group would have the responsibility for disseminating existing knowledge and for continually examining the progress and future requirements of all research concerning the examination and selection of astronauts, including the effect of single as well as combined stresses that occur in space with particular respect to performance degradation of the crew.
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