National Geographic : 1965 Jan
The Author: Dr. Robert R. Gilruth directs NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center near Hous ton, Texas, where Projects Gemini and Apollo carry forward the Nation's space effort. He be gan his career in flight research in 1937, and later led the group of scientists and engineers whose determination made possible the success of Project Mercury. For contributions to that program, John F. Kennedy in 1962 gave Dr. Gilruth the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service. The Making of an Astronaut By ROBERT R. GILRUTH THIS IS THE YEAR of Gemini. Before 1965 is many months old, a powerful Titan II rocket will blast off from Cape Kennedy, carrying two American astronauts aboard a spacecraft called Gemini-after the twins of the zodiac. For more than two years these men and their fellow astronauts have pre pared themselves for Project Gemini and the epochal lunar voyages that will follow. They have pursued a unique training curriculum, and their classrooms lie scattered throughout the country. They have attended hundreds of lectures, pored over thousands of documents, and sat through countless technical meetings. They have conditioned their bodies to withstand grueling com binations of stresses: acceleration, weightlessness, noise, heat, cold, vibration, disorientation, and immobilization. They have learned to survive in Panama's tropical jungles and in Nevada's scorching deserts. They have studied the geology of steaming fumaroles, lava tubes, and ice caves. They have sunk their pickaxes into basalt, shale, and pre-Cambrian rocks. They have visited factories to watch embryo spacecraft take shape. They have practiced with dozens of training devices, simulating Spit-roasted boa constrictor served by a Choco Indian turns out to be lunch for 15 spacemen-in-training on a jungle-survival course in Panama. "It tasted like a four-foot-long hot dog," said one diner. Upon their return from space, astronauts plan to land in the ocean, but they do not overlook the possibility of coming down in jungle or desert. Twenty-eight United States spacemen concentrate on the Gemini and Apollo programs, the latter de signed to put a man on the moon by 1970. Plans call for orbiting a two-man Gemini spacecraft in the next few months. 122 EKTACHROME(ABOVE) BYTED RAZUMALSKI;KODACHROME BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHEROTIS IMBODEN C N.G.S.