National Geographic : 1965 Jan
this country's most experienced aerospace engineers and scientists, supported by nearly 2,200 technicians, administrators, and cler ical workers. Besides managing development of spacecraft, our people pursue advanced re search projects; they also spend much time in the classroom, both teaching and being taught. But our best-known students are the astro nauts. Their training is the most intensive and expensive. They spend 50 hours a week for two to five years training for a single flight. On lunar missions, each crew will be respon sible for a vehicle costing more than the en tire training program for all the astronauts. We provide only postgraduate training for the astronauts. Their preparation really be gan years ago in college, where most of them obtained engineering or science degrees. Then came flight training and as many as ten years as jet pilots. Many have had a graduate course in test-pilot school. Experienced pilots, they have excellent health, emotional stability, and coolness un der pressure. They have operated aircraft under the most dangerous conditions; nine have flown in combat. They have faced fear and learned to overcome it. Our astronaut team now totals 28 mem bers, including six of our original seven-man Mercury team, nine "intermediate" class members brought aboard for the two-man Gemini flights, and 13 of an original 14 "fresh men" just completing their first full year of space training. Later this year we will select a dozen or so additional astronauts with em phasis on their science background. Studies Include Comets and Computers Our Astronaut Training Program covers four major areas: The Spacecraft: Each man must become thoroughly familiar with all the space vehi cles, how they are built, and how they fly. The Space Environment: Each must learn to feel at home in the weightlessness of space; the weak lunar gravity, only one-sixth that of earth; forbidding temperature extremes, and the crushing forces of launch and re-entry. Space Survival: Each must learn how to eject himself from his spacecraft should some thing go wrong during launch or re-entry, and to survive wherever he lands, in the water, desert, or jungle, until rescued. Space Science: Each must become a skilled observer, with a knowledge of geology and astronomy, in order to bring back scientific information-a primary NASA goal. In 200 hours of lectures, an astronaut learns about hypergolic fuels and hyperbolic ve locities, about telemetry and temperature control, about everything from comets and cryogenics to computers and communications. But astronauts need more than books and lec tures. Spacecraft change as new systems are added, old systems modified. As tronauts face the problem that troubled an old Swedish friend, who said: "I have hardly learned to say yob, and already they are calling it proyect." The complexity of the program is such that one of the best ways to keep) up to date is to work right with the engineers who design the spacecraft. This is one of the advan tages of having the astro nauts train at our center side by side with the skilled scientists who manage our spacecraft programs. By sitting in on engineering design meetings, the astronauts hear of modifications as soon as they are initiated. One man cannot hope to attend all engineering sessions; each of the astro nauts takes on a specialty and keeps the other 27 abreast of developments. As spacecraft systems become more complex, we must use more elab orate training aids. Gem ini, for example, uses Like tumblers in slow motion,Maj. Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., Capt. Charles A. Bassett II, and Capt. Theodore C. Freeman experience 26 seconds of weight lessness in a KC-135 jet tanker over Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. As the plane flies the crest of a parabolic curve, the spacemen "swim" almost effortlessly within the padded cabin. Instructor Philip V. Kulwicki hugs the wall at left. A strap tethered the photographer for this shot. Captain Freeman 130 was later killed in a jet plane crash, October 31, 1964.