National Geographic : 1962 Feb
"cap com," so called because he does most of the talking with the astronaut. The third flight controller, the medical monitor, watches over the physical condition of the astronaut. Dr. Thomas R. A. Davis, a surgeon from Massachusetts who travels to one of the foreign stations for each Mercury flight, described his responsibilities. "Other people look after the mechanical systems; my job is to keep an eye on the man," Dr. Davis explained. "On our consoles we monitor his pulse, his respiration, his body temperature. We warn him to use emergency measures if necessary. We watch his conver sation closely, because his manner of speaking can give the first sign of danger." I asked Dr. Davis about a rehearsal at one tracking station where teletype messages came through reading, "Astro is now deliri ous and singing to himself," and "Astro ap pears to have stopped breathing." Davis laughed. "During our simulations with the astronaut, he is given a script and is 212 prompted by a medical man on how to indi cate various medical conditions. Some of these are quite unlikely to occur, but it is good training. When you consider that we have only about six minutes to 'diagnose by tele phone,' you can understand why we literally sweat before the dials of the console and for get it is only a simulation." I asked what actually could happen to the astronaut. "If the oxygen pressure or cabin tempera ture went way out of ordinary," Dr. Davis answered, "or if the suit temperature jumped way up or down, we would have to decide if he should continue. We might test his condi tion by asking him to do certain things or reply to specific questions. If we find that the astronaut is confused or ill, we would strong ly recommend that he come down. "Actually," he concluded, "the astronaut will be quite comfortable, I expect." It is not possible for you and me to visit a tracking station while a nian is in orbit.